Bethlea Bell from FBA, Aaron Horsey from Cleanwater Group, Jessica Nelms from GBRMPA and Sherie Bruce from LMAC.
Bethlea Bell from FBA, Aaron Horsey from Cleanwater Group, Jessica Nelms from GBRMPA and Sherie Bruce from LMAC.

Yeppoon’s dirtiest drain

THERE are no if’s, but’s or maybe’s about it, cigarettes butts have become a major source of litter found washing into our ocean, with 999 individual butts found in Anzac Parade Yeppoon Drain Buddy in less than a year, giving the site the unenviable title of dirtiest drain on the Capricorn Coast.

A Drain Buddy audit conducted in early 2020 identified the distressing find leading to a call for people to take responsibility of their butts and other litter before it washes into our ocean.

In Yeppoon, nine heavy duty baskets were installed in mid-2019 thanks to a Local Action Community Reef Protection grant, funded by the partnership between the Australian Government’s Reef Trust and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation to collect matter including litter, organic matter and sediment.

Every 12 weeks, Fitzroy Basin Association with support from several stakeholder groups, audit the baskets with varying results.

The purpose of the Drain Buddy is to analyse matter collected to find the source of matter and aim to reduce the litter at its source.

The data surfacing from the project since mid-2019 has revealed that Anzac Parade, nearest to James Street roundabout is a litter hotspot.

The single drain has collected 999 butts in less than a year. An astonishing 710 cigarette butts (or 71% of this figure) were recovered from this drain alone in February, following a 12-week collection period.

Anzac Parade in Yeppoon has been named the dirtiest of drains across the region.
Anzac Parade in Yeppoon has been named the dirtiest of drains across the region.

Community Participation Officer Bethlea Bell said the number of cigarette butts at the problematic site was difficult to understand and one the community needs to address.

“There are many influences which could be a factor in why this drain, above others, is a cigarette butt hotspot. Foot traffic, the holiday season and general apathy may all have some impact. The common theme is humans in this equation, and that’s where this project focuses its efforts,” Ms Bell said.

“Once again, Yeppoon has recorded a high presence of confetti and an increased number of straws, predominantly in drains located in James Street. This data is likely attributed to the Australia Day Parade in late January.

“The combined drain buddy audits across the Yeppoon CBD have saved a total of 3343 cigarette butts from washing into our waterways over the past nine months.”

Cigarette butts have accounted for 50% of all litter across 27 drains in Gladstone, Yeppoon and Rockhampton. Among the usual culprits were some new offenders including 143 plastic film remnants, 56 straws, 118 pieces of confetti, 143 confectionary wrappers, one urinal diffuser, one hearing aid and one vomit bag.

Ms Bell said the next stage of the project is the implementation of a targeted behaviour change strategy, based on the data collected.

“We have been working behind the scenes on numerous projects including installation of butt bins, community education, replacing plastic straws with alternatives such as wheat straws and encouraging cafes and restaurants to reduce the number of takeaway coffee cups and lids used,” she said.

“We are working hard to reduce marine debris at the source, engaging local councils, schools and individuals to change behaviours and care more for our environment.

“We have a number of schools including Farnborough State School raising funds to sponsor their own Drain Buddy and will continue to find ways to help people make the change for a better cleaner community.”