Cleaning up our waterways

By Ludovic Grosjean, member of the Rotaract Club of Melbourne City, Australia    

Success starts at home. This is why every month we invite Rotary and Rotaract clubs in our district to join us for a walk along the river near Flinders station in Melbourne, Australia, to participate in cleaning trash and debris from the water. This is but a small step in the overall goal towards keeping plastic from our oceans, but it is an important one. Every piece of plastic that we keep out of the ocean is a success.

After each walk, we compile information (photos, pollution data) on what we have collected and we measure the impact of our clean-ups. We look for all types of pollution, not just single-use plastics. We have removed bikes, shopping trolleys, Australian rules footballs, syringes, plastics straws and lids, cigarette buds, polystyrene pieces, and more.

A few weeks after the ban of plastic bags from supermarkets in Victoria, we noticed the number of plastic bags found in the river had dropped considerably. In fact, last month we did not find any supermarket plastic bags in the river at all – proof that government measures work.

This clean-up walk not only reduces the amount of visible pollution in the environment, but it serves as a fantastic opportunity to engage with the local community while we raise the visibility of Rotarians as People of Action. In fact, many non-Rotarians ask to join us. Walking along the local river, joining others to clean up the pollution, keeps us focused on the bigger picture.

Our program, the “Ocean CleanX” proposes harnessing both social and technological assets to stop ocean pollution at its sources. Our goal is to efficiently reduce and remove pollution from our rivers and waterways before it reaches the ocean in the first place. The project consists of four parts:

  • Removing pollution manually and capturing data about what was collected using smartphones and sensors.
  • Employing technology to process the data collected and figure out where the pollution is coming from, possibly installing sensors to monitor specific parameters.
  • Adding “smart litter traps” along the river to capture the pollution as closely as possible to its source.
  • Leveraging the collected data to support people who are advocating for change in their communities. We can monitor the impact through the statistics collected in real-time.

To get started, we are focusing on the manual collection and data processing. We’ll need to raise funds to install “smart litter traps” on the rivers. Ultimately, The Ocean CleanX will use automated platforms to remove coastal littering.

If pollution continues at the present rate, there could be more tons of plastics than fish in our oceans by 2050. About 90% of the plastic pollution around the world comes from just ten rivers. Our scalable solution connects the power of people and technology to stop the pollution at the source.

Our Ocean CleanX project is one of many environmental initiatives supported by the Environmental Sustainability Rotarian Action Group (ESRAG). Any Rotarian, Rotaractor or member of the Rotary family (family members, program participants, and alumni) can join ESRAG. Within Rotary, ESRAG will help you get involved in one of many existing environmental projects or find support to implement a new one locally in your own club. ESRAG also offers ten successful environmental initiatives in their free handbook developed in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

We invite you to become involved and join us in our mission to implement the technology and social changes needed to help clean our oceans and water for future generations. Whether it is reducing the plastic you use or volunteering to clean plastic from your local river, everything you do matters.

Start making a difference today. Join ESRAG!

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