Building on our successful Cooks River clean-up events, we’ve embarked on our most ambitious environmental project yet—developing a comprehensive litter prevention strategy to halve waste across the Cooks River catchment area by 2025.
For this project, we’re the successful recipient of a major NSW EPA (Environment Protection Authority) Community Litter Grant. The strategy will be the first of its kind, addressing the complex problem of litter from a truly whole-of-catchment perspective. You can read our media release about the project here!
The strategy is an exciting step towards tackling the Cooks River litter problem at its source—before it has a chance to enter the river. Reducing the amount of litter generated in the first place will dramatically improve our river’s health, and amplify the efforts of the dedicated groups already working to remove waste from the Cooks and its surrounds.
The strategy will embody the ethos and community spirit of the club by taking a truly collaborative approach; working with partner groups and with authorities, while creating opportunities at every step for community consultation and engagement.
To develop a comprehensive and collaborative litter prevention strategy for the Cooks River with actions that will deliver 50% litter reduction over four years.
By 2025, paddlers on the Cooks River want to see the amount of litter entering the waterway halved as a result of a coordinated litter prevention strategy across the whole catchment implemented by community and authorities working together.
The Cooks River is an urban estuary known as one of the most polluted urban rivers in Australia. AUSMAP sampling found one beach in the catchment contains the largest amount of microplastics in the country. More than 1000 cubic metres of litter are removed from the river and in the catchment by community groups, councils, Sydney Water and other landowners each year either through manual clean-ups or various gross pollutant traps. The 23km of river stretch through a growth corridor where increasing population and urban use of the river means more litter and more demand for a cleaner waterway.
Litter prevention plays a significant role in achieving the 2030 Cooks River Community Vision for “a loved and healthy river valley enriching the heart of Sydney”. There is a strong, dedicated network of Cooks River community groups and authorities working towards litter prevention through various activities and programs which occur in an uncoordinated manner. With more than 500,000 people in the catchment who each litter somewhere, sometime, a coordinated whole of catchment approach is the only way forward.
This project aims to make a significant and sustained contribution across the Cooks River to halve litter in the catchment by 2025 through a coordinated strategy. The project begins with a communications campaign across the catchment using ‘Hey Tosser’ material to signal the project goal of 50% litter reduction. A business case will analyse how litter enters public places within the catchment, reviewing existing data and asking community to identify hotspots and conduct Local Litter Checks. The findings will be synthesized to form recommendations for a strategic plan that identifies actions for all partners that account for cleanliness, infrastructure, education & awareness, enforcement and community involvement, particularly in significant hotspot locations. A series of pilots will be carried out to refine the strategy and learnings will be shared across the state through case studies and presentations.
This localised, place-based project has the backing of very active community groups as well as a strong alliance of councils. The project draws on the strengths, knowledge and resources of this network who will guide project development through a management group of representatives from community groups, local councils and other land managers.
What are the gaps that the project seeks to address?
- Up until now, the club and the wider network of Cooks River community groups haven’t had the resources or know-how to focus on effective and coordinated litter prevention actions and have instead focused on litter clean ups.
- The club is proud of its achievement of drawing attention to the devastating amount of litter clogging the Cooks River waterway. The ultimate purpose of Cooks River Clean-Up, Paddle Against Plastic and The Mullets events are to contribute to growing awareness of the issues of litter in our waterway. However, this is not enough to enable the kind of widespread behaviour change needed to significantly reduce litter.
- All organisations—community groups, councils and land managers—are each doing their bit in individual sections of the catchment, but it’s also not enough. We recognise it needs to be coordinated and more focused on litter prevention. There are currently no coordinated policies, practices or messaging across the catchment.