Making a difference: Coastal Waste Warriors track rubbish from clean-ups for Australian Marine Debris Initiative

Local environmental community group Coastal Waste Warriors have jumped on board with the Australian Marine Debris Initiative (AMDI) to record detailed information about the rubbish collected during their monthly beach clean-ups.

Started by the Tangaroa Blue foundation in 2004, the database enables volunteers and organisations to tally up the debris collected to create a standardised national database and a comprehensive overview of the amounts and types of marine debris left behind on Australian beaches.

Data was first collected from small community clean-ups in the South West region between Cape Naturaliste and Cape Leeuwin.

Since then, more than 13 million items of marine debris data have been inputted into the AMDI database across 3000 clean-up sits across the country by more than 120,000 volunteers.

Tangaroa Blue recognised very early on that if all we do is clean-up, that's all we'll ever do.

Heidi Taylor

Tangaroa Blue Foundation spokeswoman Heidi Taylor said the AMDI database was now the "most comprehensive marine debris database in the southern hemisphere" and one of the biggest in the world.

"Tangaroa Blue recognised very early on that if all we do is clean-up, that's all we'll ever do," she said.

"By designing the AMDI to include the national database, we were able to capture the vital data which shows exactly what is impacting different areas around Australia, which then provides the evidence needed to push for change that stops these items at the source."

Ms Taylor said the most important purpose of the database was to identify the origin of much of the collected rubbish.

"When we understand where items of marine debris are coming from, we can then start to engage the right stakeholder groups to find solutions," she said.

"For example, if we find a balloon with a company name on it, we can start talking with that company about alternative items for them to use for promotion that won't contribute to the marine debris load in our oceans.

"This is a scalable framework that can work tracking and mitigating items at local, state, national or international sources."

Coastal Waste Warriors founder Kirstin Field said, after gathering more than 180 kilograms of rubbish in their first two organised clean ups, they thought it was important to be recording the details of the litter being collected.

"The database is a new thing but it has helped us adopt better sorting systems to input data and track the collection of rubbish," she said.

"Thousands of cigarette butts, fishing line, bait bags being stuffed in the rocks that make their way into the ocean.

"Sometimes you feel like a drop in the ocean ... It's a bit disheartening because we're not getting close to all of it but you can only take up so much of peoples' time and it is tiring."

Mrs Field also hopes to work closely through the Coastal Waste Warriors with the City of Mandurah to implement better signage to educate the community about littering and marine debris.

Ms Taylor said they encouraged groups and individuals to get in touch with them and find out more about how to get involved.

"It is vital that we have robust scientific data if we are going to be able to push for changes at industry, government and community levels," she said.

"By working together other organisations and volunteers can be part of a solution driven project and we can achieve a lot more as a group than any of us could achieve alone.

"If other community groups are already running clean-up activities, we have a lot of resources on our website and a data collection app that they can use to contribute data that they collect to the AMDI Database. If individual volunteers would like to adopt their own section of beach or river, they can also contribute their data - it doesn't have to be from a formal clean-up event."

Tangaroa Blue have resources on their website including fact sheets, education kits for teachers and identification manuals.

They will host their 15th annual WA beach clean-up event on October 19-20 with volunteers and groups able to register their own beach and they will receive a clean-up kit and data collection sheets to take part.

For more information about the Coastal Waste Warriors, visit their Facebook page.

To learn more about the AMDI database or to get involved, visit the Tangaroa Blue Foundation website.