A dedicated group of south-west volunteers have been rewarded with a state government grant to continue their environmental work cleaning up the region's beaches.
Beach Patrol 3280-3284 will receive $14,820 over two years to create educational and promotional materials with the aim of reducing the amount of litter entering the ocean from local sources.
Over the past 15 months members have collected marine debris data through beach clean-ups which has helped identify litter and its sources.
Environmental warrior Colleen Hughson said the most common locally-polluted plastic items identified through the clean-ups were cotton buds, nurdles, cigarette butts, straws, plastic food packaging and plastic bottles.
"Volunteers have collected over 18,000 cotton buds just off Shelly Beach, Warrnambool, making cotton bud pollution one of our worst local marine litter issues," she said.
"By educating people about the issue of flushing cotton buds down toilets, we hope to reduce the amount of cotton buds that are discharged into the ocean via our local sewage ocean outfall. This will improve the aesthetics of the beach and decrease the risk of plastic ingestion for marine life.
"We also want to see a national ban on plastic-stemmed cotton buds because cotton bud marine pollution is also a problem for other coastal areas with sewage ocean outfalls."
Ms Hughson said the group would collaborate with Warrnambool City Council's waste management team and school groups to come up with bright ideas for reducing plastics.
The program will be run by community volunteers and the funding will be used to implement some of the ideas that come out of the school brain-storming sessions.
"This may be a social change video, new anti-littering signage, printed materials or something completely out of the box," Ms Hughson said.
Beach Patrol 3280-3284 is a volunteer community group who clean up and monitor local beaches.
In the past 20 months, they have removed 805,425 plastic items from local beaches and counted and itemised each piece into a national marine debris database.
"After spending so much time on the beach collecting debris you get to see patterns in what you're finding," Ms Hughson said.
"It can be quite infuriating to see the same litter items wash in on our beaches time and time again, especially when it can be so easily avoided if people just used a rubbish bin.
"It is really quite shocking to see how much ocean pollution we as a town contribute. We have a responsibility to do something about it.
"You often think of ways of how, as a community, we could reduce our impact on the ocean and so we are super excited and grateful to receive this funding to give us an opportunity to achieve some of our goals in reducing marine debris."
The state government's 2019 Coastcare Community Grants Program has funded 28 community groups in support of the conservation, restoration and rehabilitation of coastal and marine environments along Victoria's coastline.
The program helps deliver small scale community projects in coastal areas, building environmental and community resilience in a changing environment.
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