Frequently Asked Questions
The Riverkeeper Program has developed a catchment-level approach to removing rubbish and restoring degraded native bushland on foreshores, creeks and tributaries. The Riverkeeper program primarily partners with Corrective Services NSW utilising teams comprised of individuals on Intensive Correction Orders. The Riverkeeper program also partners with other community groups in rubbish collection, bush regeneration and tree plantings programs.
In the 2011-2012 financial year, Riverkeeper rubbish collection teams have worked at over 100 sites and contributed over 30,000 hours, collecting in excess of 110 tonne of rubbish. An average of 9 tonne of rubbish is removed from the river system each month. Bush Regeneration teams contributed 3000 hours covering 25,000 m2 an planted over 1900 plants.
Where does rubbish come from?
Most of the rubbish that makes its way through the conventional stormwater system into the river is caused by littering in urban areas. Illegal dumping is also a significant contributing factor.
What kinds of rubbish is typically found and removed?
A majority of the rubbish removed is plastics, including plastic bags, drink bottles, packaging and broken debris. Other kinds of rubbish removed includes dumped building and construction materials, green waste, milk crates, rubber tyres, furniture and household items, trolleys, mattresses and auto parts. Riverkeeper teams also remove micro-rubbish. Rubbish within the stormwater system is termed ‘gross pollutants.’
What is micro-rubbish?
Micro-rubbish is the term we use to describe the smallest gross pollutants in the system. It is characterised by the smallest pieces of rubbish (< 5mm) such as polystyrene, plastic bits, bottle tops and cigarette butts & lighters. Polystyrene used in packaging represents the most commonly found micro rubbish. The polystyrene breaks down into ever smaller pieces and mixes with organic materials (leaves, seaweed), and is consequently very difficult to remove from the river system. Micro-rubbish, ingested by seabirds and aquatic species has been recorded as a significant cause of mortality.
What can be done to prevent rubbish from being dumped?
Illegal dumping is a criminal offense under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997, and significant fines apply to those caught dumping. Catchment residents can anonymously report illegal dumpers by contacting council waste officers. Many local councils now offer expanded waste services to minimise illegal dumping; these include collection days for hard rubbish, chemicals and electronic waste.
Why does the program concentrate on bush regeneration?
The program aims to increase the biodiversity of remnant bushland and riparian (river bank) vegetation on foreshores, creeks and tributaries, through the targeted removal of weeds, revegetation and natural regeneration. Increasing species diversity and restoring natural levels of ground cover within riparian areas is important to maintaining a healthy waterway. Dense, healthy riparian areas prevent erosion and filter stormwater runoff and so ultimately prevent pollutants entering the waterway.
Is everything that looks like rubbish really rubbish?
Some people think that organic matter such as logs, leaves and seaweed are rubbish and should be removed from the river but they are not rubbish, in fact they play an important role in the river ecosystem and unless they are a threat to human safety the Riverkeeper teams do not remove the organic matter. Such organic matter is termed “detritus” (sticks, leaves, etc) and “wrack” seaweed.