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Physical clean-up of waste pollution

The importance of physically removing waste pollution from natural areas and recreation sites is crucial for the environment, society and the economy. For example, studies show that lower levels of beach cleanliness hurt tourism revenue with people reluctant to visit beaches with higher amounts of waste pollution[1][2].

Coordinated volunteer clean-up events have been undertaken for decades and are a tried and true method of removing waste from the environment.

Volunteer team Photo by Queensland Government

Quick facts

More than 175,000 volunteers
have cleaned up over 3000 sites and removed over 1300 tonnes of waste with Tangaroa Blue (as of October 2020).

Some Australian beaches are using supermarket shopping baskets placed on the edge of the beach to encourage beachgoers to collect rubbish.  Although this is a good intention, baskets made from true biodegradable products or woven leaves would be a better alternative as they wouldn’t shed plastic.

Community clean-up campaigns

Campaigns, including Clean Up Australia Day, 104 or more litter initiative and Take 3 For The Sea, encourage the general public to pick up a small number of waste items from streets, bushland and beaches. These campaigns encourage small actions that contribute to the larger goal of reducing waste in the environment. They also create role models that increase the community’s perception that picking up waste is a social norm.

Many local councils, rangers and community groups run these events, including:

Sources Pathways Sinks Effects
  • Air
  • Biological
  • Mechanical
  • Water
  • Marine and intertidal
  • Freshwater
  • Land
  • Cultural impacts
  • Economic impacts
  • Impacts on human health
  • Impacts on wildlife
  • Litter clean-up kits

    The kits include gloves, litter pickers and lightweight hand-held bins. They are available from many councils or by registering a clean-up event with Clean Up Australia.

    Sources Pathways Sinks Effects
  • Air
  • Biological
  • Mechanical
  • Water
  • Marine and intertidal
  • Freshwater
  • Land
  • Cultural impacts
  • Economic impacts
  • Impacts on human health
  • Impacts on wildlife
  • Cleaning Stations

    On-site cabinets that contain gloves, bags and litter pickers are an excellent resource for community members who want to help. The cleaning material is usually provided and maintained by councils or other land managers. Community members usually register to access a station.

    Sources Pathways Sinks Effects
  • Air
  • Biological
  • Mechanical
  • Water
  • Marine and intertidal
  • Freshwater
  • Land
  • Cultural impacts
  • Economic impacts
  • Impacts on human health
  • Impacts on wildlife
  • Manual waste collection – waterways

    Natural resource management groups or waterway cleaning organisations can be contracted to help remove large waste items from rivers, creeks, lakes, estuaries and off-shore islands. Special equipment may be required.

    Sources Pathways Sinks Effects
  • Air
  • Biological
  • Mechanical
  • Water
  • Marine and intertidal
  • Freshwater
  • Land
  • Biota
  • Cultural impacts
  • Economic impacts
  • Impacts on human health
  • Impacts on wildlife
  • Manual waste collection – land

    A landowner or land manager is responsible for removing littered and illegally dumped items from their land. Natural resource management groups or waste removal organisations can be contracted to assist. Note: contractors must be appropriately licenced to remove and transport regulated waste.

    Sources Pathways Sinks Effects
  • Air
  • Biological
  • Mechanical
  • Water
  • Marine and intertidal
  • Freshwater
  • Land
  • Biota
  • Cultural impacts
  • Economic impacts
  • Impacts on human health
  • Impacts on wildlife
  • Automatic underground waste collection

    A new high-tech waste management system has been installed in the Sunshine Coast, Queensland. Waste is transported from commercial buildings and apartments, at up to 70 kilometres per hour, through a 6.5km system of underground vacuum pipes located beneath the ground. Located in the town of Maroochydore, Queensland, the system ensures that “people will never have to walk past rows of wheelie bins or be woken early by noisy garbage trucks."

     

    Sources Pathways Sinks Effects
  • Air
  • Biological
  • Mechanical
  • Water
  • Marine and intertidal
  • Freshwater
  • Land
  • Cultural impacts
  • Economic impacts
  • Impacts on human health
  • Impacts on wildlife
  • Litter vacuum systems

    Dedicated vacuums can be used to remove smaller waste items, such as cigarette butts, beverage containers and polystyrene from streets, gutters, parks and waterways. Vacuum systems can be mounted to trailers, vessels, vehicles and backpacks or used as standalone vacuums. Vacuums are typically used by local councils and street maintenance crews to remove waste from central business districts.

    Sources Pathways Sinks Effects
  • Air
  • Biological
  • Mechanical
  • Water
  • Marine and intertidal
  • Freshwater
  • Land
  • Biota
  • Cultural impacts
  • Economic impacts
  • Impacts on human health
  • Impacts on wildlife
  • Tractor-powered sifters

    Tractor-towed sifting beach cleaners remove material from fine, dry sand and can be a viable cleaning option depending on the beach conditions. However, the speed of the tractor is limited, as sifting units need to lift the sand onto the belt and sift it through. This energy-intensive process takes more time than raking methods. Similarly, if the sand is wet or damp, it must travel at relatively low speeds to thoroughly clean without removing too much sand. That being said, they excel at removing light, tiny objects from the sand, like dried oil remnants, and are a powerful tool for such applications.

    Sources Pathways Sinks Effects
  • Air
  • Biological
  • Mechanical
  • Water
  • Marine and intertidal
  • Freshwater
  • Land
  • Biota
  • Cultural impacts
  • Economic impacts
  • Impacts on human health
  • Impacts on wildlife
  • Street sweepers

    Road and carpark street sweepers use suction, high pressure water and spinning brush heads to clean waste, dirt and debris from roads, gutters, carparks and footpaths. This equipment and street sweeping services can be useful for governments, commercial or residential developers, industry and manufacturers, shopping centres, universities and schools.

    Sources Pathways Sinks Effects
  • Air
  • Biological
  • Mechanical
  • Water
  • Marine and intertidal
  • Freshwater
  • Land
  • Biota
  • Cultural impacts
  • Economic impacts
  • Impacts on human health
  • Impacts on wildlife

  • References

    1. ^ Ballance, A.,, Ryan, P.G., & Turpie, JK (2000), 'How much is a clean beach worth? The impact of litter on beach users in the Cape Peninsula, South Africa.', South African Journal of Science, vol. 96, pp. 5210-52-13.
    2. ^ Williams, A.T., & Rangel-Buitrago, N (2019), 'Marine litter: Solutions for a major environmental problem.', Journal of Coastal Research, vol. 35, no. 3, pp. 648-663.

    Last updated: 10 May 2021

    This page should be cited as:

    Department of Environment and Science, Queensland (2021) Physical clean-up of waste pollution, WetlandInfo website, accessed 13 May 2021. Available at: https://wetlandinfo.des.qld.gov.au/wetlands/management/pressures/litter-illegal-dumping/management-interventions/com-clean-up.html

    Queensland Government
    WetlandInfo   —   Department of Environment and Science