Measuring beach litter

Students measuring beach litter using a quadrat made from string
Students measuring beach litter using a quadrat made from string

Schools and community groups have measured the amount of beach litter to find out how big the problem is. St Kilda Earth Care picked up all the litter on their beach and recorded what they had picked up. In three years they picked up 41,247 pieces of rubbish. Most was from stormwater drains, but it included 725 fishing lines and hooks and 725 fish bait bags left behind by fishers. The most common litter was plastic bags. They also picked up 152 syringes.

Many schools don’t consider it safe for students to be picking up litter on beaches. The students in this photo are measuring the amount of litter without the need to touch it. You can find more information about the technique in the curriculum materials. This is what the students are doing to measure beach pollution:

  • They have found a location where the high tide has left the seaweed along with the litter.
  • Students have used a four metre circle of string and four stakes to make a square one metre quadrat on the beach.
  • They have picked through the seaweed and other material inside the one metre square quadrat with a plastic ruler to find all the litter
  • The students recorded the litter found on their data sheets.
  • If they find anything harmful, they will inform their teacher who will remove it.