What’s a nurdle? A nurdle is a very small pellet of plastic which serves as the key material in the manufacture of plastic products. Countless billions of these small plastic balls are used each year to make nearly all our plastic products.
Accidental spillage and mishandling means that countless nurdles have ended up in our oceans, wreaking havoc on the environment.
Mistaken for food by our marine-life and seabirds, nurdles and other plastics can make animals very sick when ingested.
Hundreds of volunteers regularly dedicate their time and energy into helping protect, preserve and enhance the natural beauty of the Great Ocean Road’s flora and fauna every month, including members from the Surfrider Foundation.
Education is the most important tool when it comes to fighting the ongoing battle with litter.
With more than 270,000 tonnes of rubbish polluting the oceans and more than 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic, it is no wonder rubbish is a lethal threat to marine animals.
The Great Ocean Road Coast Committee (GORCC) conservation staff along with dedicated volunteer groups continually remove litter from our coastal areas throughout the year with increased efforts over the busy holiday period.
GORCC conservation supervisor Georgie Beale is disappointed at the amount of litter in our oceans and believes that education is vital in reducing its presence in our coastal environments.
“Education is the key to overcoming the battle with litter. Getting kids to change their behaviour and bin their rubbish will make a huge difference to the environment.
“We have incorporated marine debris into our educational programs to inform people about how important it is to keep our beaches clean,” Ms Beale said.
“We teach groups about the Take 3 for the Sea campaign which is a simple idea that encourages everyone to take three extra pieces of rubbish with them as they leave the beach.
“Our biggest challenge is reaching those who don’t care and don’t understand their impact on our unique marine wildlife which is why educating young children is so important,” Ms Beale explains.
Top 10 marine debris items
Cigarettes/ cigarette filters
Food wrappers/ containers
Beverage bottles (plastic)
Cups, plates, forks, knives, spoons (plastic)
Beverage bottles (glass)
Straws, stirrers (plastic)
Local Surfrider Foundation Surf Coast volunteer John Foss said the educational programs that are offered in schools and through GORCC are making a huge difference in teaching the next generation about the hazards of litter.
“What we need is for people to stop treating our coast as an ashtray.
“Unfortunately it is often the visitors that cause the most damage to the coast as they have not received the education locals have about caring for our environment.
“We need a national anti-litter campaign that targets young people and beachgoers in a multilingual format to get the message across,” said Mr Foss.
Although we cannot eliminate the world’s marine litter, we can make a difference along our precious beaches by encouraging others to keep the beaches clean.
Click here to find out more about volunteering along the surf coast.
How many times have you sat on the beach and found yourself surrounded by cigarette butts?
Cigarette butts continue to be the main source of rubbish found on our Surf Coast – a disappointing result considering the Surf Coast Shire was the first municipality to ban smoking on its beaches.
In 2008, cigarette butts made up 30 per cent of rubbish collected nation-wide by Clean Up Australia and little has changed since.
Great Ocean Road Coast Committee conservation officer Georgie Beale said cigarette butts are everywhere on the coast despite the “no butts” ban on Surf Coast beaches.
“We literally pick up hundreds of butts every time we do a beach cleanup,” she said.
Why do cigarette butts continue to be a problem?
President of the Surf Coast branch of the Surfrider Foundation, John Foss said that cigarette litter will remain a prominent issue in our area because of the huge increase in population and visitation.
“In general there has been a reduction in the number of cigarette butts found on Surf Coast beaches throughout the year however the amount of butts found on our beaches during summer remains the same.
“It’s noticable after hot days and big crowds that we will find more butts along the high tide marks in the sand and on the beaches in general,” he said.
Cosy Corner, Torquay and Torquay Surf Beach have the highest visitations on the Surf Coast during the summer months and as a result are the most frequently littered areas.
Why are cigarette butts so bad for the coast?
Mr. Foss said cigarette butts can have significant negative impacts, mostly on birdlife and the marine environment.
‘Cigarette butts find their way into rockpools and the ocean, then leach toxic chemicals into the marine environment,” he said.
In seawater, cigarette butts can take up to five years to breakdown. After the butts lose their colour, birds and other marine life often mistake them for food.
Also, when cigarettes are carelessly flicked out of vehicles they can smoulder for up to three hours and can cause fires.
“I’ve seen cars pull up at Torquay Surf Beach and dump their ashtrays out the car window straight into the gutter which flows to the sea,” said Mr. Foss
For more information on cigarette butts, please click here to read Clean up Australia’s fact sheet.
“Students from St. Bernards College Santa Monica have conducted clean ups between Moggs Creek and Grassy Creek and have collected up to 1010 butts in one session” said, Wally Smith, Technical Director of the Tangaroa Blue Foundation.
Specific local data also compiled by the Tangaroa Blue Foundation shows that cigarette butts make up 22 per cent of all items collected off beaches.
What can I do to help?
Joining a working bee is a rewarding way to give back to community and environment.
While steps have been taken to reduce smoking on our beautiful beaches, we still need to work together to keep them smoke and cigarette butt free.
The Surf Coast has some of the most beautiful beaches in Australia which attract millions of visitors each year. Surf Coast beaches provide an important social and recreational outlet for visitors and locals and are thought of as a local ‘park’ by many.
A number of studies in recent years have proven that cigarette butts are a major source of beach litter. Data from Clean Up Australia has revealed that over 32 billion cigarette butts are dropped in Australia each year, and that prior to 2004 (when smoking was banned at Bondi) there were 700,000 cigarette butts on Bondi Beach alone!
Cigarette butts are ‘toxic time bombs’ containing significant pollutants that can harm wildlife and damage coastal environments. They can take up to five years to break down in sea water and cost management authorities thousands of dollars each year to pick up.
In 2008 the Surfrider Foundation lobbied local land managers and authorities for smoking to be banned at a number of beaches within the Surf Coast Shire.
The following summer a ban was placed on smoking at all Surf Coast beaches. The decision marked the adoption of the first coastal smoking ban in Victoria.
The decision has played an important role in reducing cigarette butts on the coast. The Surf Coast ban on smoking extends along approximately 55 kilometres of coast from Torquay to Lorne including the iconic Bells Beach.
The Surfrider Foundation is working with the Surf Coast Shire and the Great Ocean Road Coast Committee to support the ban.
The Great Ocean Road Committee, as managers of much of the foreshore from Torquay to Lorne, provides bins on grassed foreshore areas and adjacent to sand areas, conducts litter clean ups twice a week and once a day in park season. The Committee also supports and coordinates volunteer clean up activities on the foreshore
Your cooperation will contribute to a safe, healthy and litter-free coastal environment for everyone to enjoy.
Surfrider Foundation is a non-profit organisation dedicated to the protection and enhancement of Australia’s oceans, waves and beaches for all people, through CARE: Conservation, Activism, Research and Education. For more information, to get involved or to volunteer, Please email firstname.lastname@example.org .
This article was published in the Surf Coast Times as part of the publications fortnightly “Going Green Column”.