Poka, 16 October 2017. From birds and turtles with stomachs full of plastic to beaches littered with drink containers: the problem of plastic marine waste is not only an eyesore, it’s lethal. Right on our doorstep is Indonesia, the world’s second largest contributor to marine debris.
The signing of a new memorandum of understanding (MOU) between Southern Cross University and Indonesia’s University of Pattimura at the Lismore campus this week heralds a deepening of ties between the two institutions and exciting new opportunities, like finding solutions to managing the volume of discarded plastics in the ocean.
Southern Cross and Pattimura have a five-year history of strong research and teaching collaborations. One research publication focusing on mercury distribution and food chain transfer in Indonesia prompted local Ambon authorities to ban the use of mercury at the processing areas.
“Future collaborations include marine science and fisheries management. This is important given that 93 per cent of the Maluku Province (in East Indonesia) is ocean and a very high proportion of protein resources come from there,” said Associate Professor Amanda Reichelt-Brushett, Deputy Head of the School of Environment, Science and Engineering.
“Southern Cross will continue to provide strong analytical chemistry support and training with our NATA (National Association of Testing Authorities) registered facilities at the Environmental Analysis Laboratory.”
Thanks to funding from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for the project ‘Professional development for Marine and Fisheries Leadership Maluku and North Maluku, Indonesia’, 15 people – including seven from the University of Pattimura – will participate in a one month leadership program at the Lismore campus and the National Marine Science Centre in Coffs Harbour.
Professor Dr Marthinus Johanes Saptenno, Rector at the University of Pattimura, said he wanted his students to be able to be part of East Indonesia’s growing tourism industry.
“Southern Cross has a great track record with its tourism and hospitality degrees. We are very keen to develop a Bachelor of Tourism and gain insight from Southern Cross to develop the program and research collaborations.”
Today delegates from Pattimura were at the National Marine Science Centre to see a demonstration of a small and portable technology called the Shruder that could revolutionise waste management while generating an income for villagers.
“Indonesia produces just over 10 per cent of the world’s marine plastic debris. It’s a critical environmental issue over there,” said Professor Steve Smith, Director of the National Marine Science Centre, who recently completed marine debris surveys at nine sites in Maluku Province and presented a marine debris workshop at the University of Pattimura at Ambon.
“The survey showed the average number of items of debris per kilometre of shore was 160,000. The lowest, at a remote beach in the Kei Islands, was 4000 per km. The highest, on a beach adjacent to a large population centre, was 313,000 per km made up mostly small pieces of plastic.
“Addressing waste management will make a real impact on the health of beaches, the marine environment and the fishing industry, not just in Indonesia but around the world.”
Coffs Harbour inventor Louise Hardman has developed the Shruder in consultation with Southern Cross to deal with marine debris issues in south-east Asia and the Pacific.
Her waste management solution is not only portable and small scale – it can generate an income for villagers. The Shruder shreds and extrudes plastic into a recyclable material, including composite building materials and 3D printer filament.
“With plastic waste become an epidemic throughout world, it is vital we provide solutions for people which will empower them to manage the health of their environment and communities. Better still, when one of the outcome of waste management is income generation,” said Ms Hardman, founder and CEO of Plastic Collective.
“The Shruder converts plastic waste into raw shredded plastic material, which can be sold to recycling companies to make larger items such as houses and other composite building material. The extrusion material can be used as 3D printer filament, which is wonderful given the 3D printer industry is expected to explode to $1.4 trillion by 2021.”
Photo: Vice Chancellor Professor Adam Shoemaker (left) with Professor Dr Marthinus Johanes Saptenno, Rector at the University of Pattimura.