A citizen science project aiming to educate people about micro and macro plastics in First Creek (Adelaide Park Lands), Glen Osmond Creek (Unley and Plympton) and River Torrens (Torrensville and Adelaide City).

The River Torrens

Thank you to all the volunteers who joined on the microplastic clean-up events at First Creek, Glen Osmond Creek, and River Torrens (Adelaide City) between 2019-2021. Waterway clean-ups is one of the most direct ways to restore beach habitats that improves ecology and ecosystem resilience. Every piece of plastic and litter removed from the waterway means there is one less dangerous item floating around that could degrade further into micro-plastics or harm an aquatic creature.

Understanding the types of rubbish that negatively impact our waterways and ultimately end up in our ocean is a start, because once we understand the kinds of rubbish most commonly found in our local aquatic ecosystems, we can educate ourselves and others on how to action to stop them at the source.

Below are the results of the rubbish that were found during the Rethinking Waste in Adelaide’s Waterways (Citizen Science Events) in Adelaide’s three waterways.

Types of microplastic and rubbish collected

A total of 12 microplastic surveys were conducted between late 2019 to early 2021 (progress were disrupted due to COVID-19 restrictions in 2020).

Overall, microplastics were found in Glen Osmond Creek and First Creek (within Adelaide Parklands). A total of 89 individual pieces of microplastics were found, more than 70% were polystyrene (foam) and plastic film remnants.


A very different picture can be seen for general litter. In total, over 2500 individual pieces weighing over 87kg of rubbish were collected through out the 12 surveys. 46% of which were plastic items, which includes drink bottles, plastic wraps, plastic bags, hard bits of plastics. Interestingly, another 40% of all litter collected from these three rivers were of broken (beer) glasses. This phenomena were found through out our microplastic study sites, especially near suburban river parklands – such as First Creek, Glen Osmond Creek, and River Torrens.

Reducing plastic in our waterways

Participating in a waterway or ocean clean up is a brilliant way to start your journey against plastic pollution. However if time, energy or life gets in the way of attending events then that’s okay! There are always ways to contribute in your everyday life to help our marine wildlife and aquatic environment. Here are our top tips on how you can help reduce the amount of litter entering our oceans:

1. Reduce single-use plastics in your life.

There are so many natural, biodegradable or compostable alternatives for common items that only takes a simple switch on your shopping list.

2. Learn about recycling in your council area.

Did you know councils have different guidelines?

We know how important reducing and recycling is and how helpful it can be for our environment when done correctly. Do you know what is allowed in your recycling bin? As local councils aim to improve their greener city policies, changes to the process of recycling are happening more and more. To understand in detail what is allowed in your recycling bin, what you can recycle at your local grocery store (most soft plastics), if your area has a glass bin system or a compost program – check your local council website or call their information phone number and ask to speak to the Environmental department.

3. Make small changes in your life and practice them until they are habits.

Every journey begins with a single step. Make one change at a time and continue to work on it until it has become a habit. Forget to take bags with you to the shops? Then start placing bags at the exits to your home, in your car or in your bike compartment. Once taking bags becomes part of your daily routine, then try a new change like taking reusable cutlery in your bag to the office. Every change matters, no matter how big or how small.

4. Share it around.

Our last tip is to spread awareness of what you learn. Here at CVA, we want to include people whether they have been fighting plastic for years or they are just starting out. Enthusiasm is contagious! Being inclusive is at the heart of how we make change in our community. It’s how we run our programs and what inspires people to come together to make a positive impact on issues that can feel big, until we start tackling them together.

Proudly supported by our partners

Australian Government

Our Community Environment Program Work

Are you interested in other CEP projects we've carried out? Check out our CEP hub with links to other important work we've done for threatened species, waterways and more.