New plastic pollution recycling program launched in NT to protect marine wildlife

Image credit: Parks Australia

The University of Adelaide has launched a plastic pollution recycling program to protect turtles from marine debris found across the Northern Territory’s coastline. 

The Toys for Turtles project was designed in collaboration with the Dhimurru Aboriginal Corporation and seeks to engage with schools and the Northeast Arnhem Land community to develop solutions that will address the plastic pollution problem heavily impacting the shoreline. 

As part of the project, two recycling hubs will be established at schools to process plastics and remanufacture them into items for the community, such as skateboards, frisbees, and sporting equipment. 

The hubs are expected to process more than 5 kgs of plastic per hour, increasing the capacity for the community to deal with plastics. 

“Marine debris is wreaking havoc on environments and wildlife in northern Australia, including the culturally significant turtle,” said Dr Nina Wootton, marine researcher at the University of Adelaide’s Gillanders Aquatic Ecology Lab in the School of Biological Sciences.

Toys for Turtles received approximately $300,000 in funding from the federal government under the Ghost Nets Innovative Solutions Grants program

Professor Bronwyn Gillanders from the University of Adelaide’s School of Biological Sciences and Environment Institute said the project is aimed at removing and recording plastic in the marine environment while creating long-lasting recycling potential for schools and the community. 

“We will work alongside the Dhimurru community in their scheduled beach cleans to survey what is collected and can additionally test plastics for their origins using the facilities at the University,” Gillanders said. “Dhimurru’s land and sea country is negatively impacted by marine debris, hence an education program is pertinent to grow awareness and reduce the impact of marine debris.”

The Toys for Turtles project is slated to commence this month and is expected to be completed in mid-2025.