Worldwide each year hundreds of thousands of marine creatures are casualties of our plastic obsession, suffering – and dying – after inadvertently eating plastic or becoming entangled in plastic debris found floating in the ocean.
The issue is close to the heart of Southern Cross University’s National Marine Science Centre, based at Coffs Harbour, where leading researchers focus on maintaining healthy marine ecosystems and sustainable marine resources.
As a natural extension of this world-class leadership, the National Marine Science Centre is now ‘plastic neutral’.
“In an effort to minimise our plastic consumption and to show leadership in mitigating the impacts of plastics in our environment, we are ‘plastic neutral’ from 1 July,” said NMSC Director Professor Steve Smith (pictured).
“Basically, this means that we will avoid single-use plastics in our operational purchasing wherever possible and identify ways to recycle unavoidable plastics before we purchase them.
“We will also implement some simple procedures to facilitate more effective collection of discarded plastic for transformation and repurposing in a ‘closed loop economy’ approach.”
Professor Smith has been researching marine debris for more than a decade, documenting the quantity and impacts of plastics in Australia and the broader region (Indonesia, Papua New Guinea).
His team is currently working with the NSW Government to measure the success of the Container Deposit Scheme in reducing the volume of debris in coastal ecosystems.
Professor Smith said the initiative had the support of NMSC staff and students.
“Ultimately reducing the sheer volume of plastics is about improving the health of the planet and humans, given the tiny bits of plastic entering the food chain starting with the fish and shellfish we eat.
“I believe we as humans have an obligation to fix the problem we created.”
Acting Vice Chancellor Ben Roche said becoming ‘plastic neutral’ was an important part of walking the talk as an innovative and progressive University.
“Our research and education in marine science is world class. Demonstrating our commitment to the sustainability of the marine environment is a key part of this. It is important that we not only lead the world in our research activity, but also how we adopt world’s best practice in how we manage our resources.”
From next year, Southern Cross University will offer its flagship Bachelor of Marine Science and Management at the National Marine Science Centre, providing opportunities for Coffs Coast locals to complete their entire degree in Coffs Harbour and by using the Solitary Islands Marine Park as their classroom.
SCU Press Release – 2 July 2018.