Community Workshop Sheds Light on Microplastics in Hawkesbury-Nepean River for World Environment Day

Western Sydney University (host to RCE Greater Western Sydney) researchers, staff and students, in collaboration with Streamwatch and Greater Sydney Landcare, have joined community volunteers as part of a hands-on workshop to assess the number of microplastics present in the Hawkesbury-Nepean River.  

The first 'Hawkesbury-Nepean Riverkeeper Community Day' saw the group come together on World Environment Day, 5 June, 2021 at Windsor Beach – a popular recreational area in the Hawkesbury region in New South Wales, Australia that was recently impacted by significant flooding.  

Dr. Michelle Ryan from the Western Sydney University’s School of Science led the workshop and explained as much as current research into microplastics is focused on the oceans, there is a need to explore the impacts of this emerging pollutant on freshwater systems, including the Hawkesbury-Nepean. "We were delighted to see a number of community members from a variety of backgrounds attend the workshop. Some volunteer regularly and others were just interested community members who care about improving the health of the waterway," said Dr. Ryan.  

The data collected will be formally analysed by Dr. Ryan and her team at lab facilities at the University’s Hawkesbury campus. The findings will inform the first 'report card' on the waterway to be released later this year. "Indicative results show the community found up to six pieces of microplastic per gram of riverbank – this number is less than previous counts – and we believe the difference could be due to the recent flooding which resulted in a sand dump from upstream," commented Dr. Ryan.  

"The River is such an important river, it is used for agriculture, drinking water, recreation, and has cultural significance. It’s vital to engage with the community and educate them on why we should protect our waterways, not only for us but for the biodiversity that live within the river, like the platypus.", Catherine, Western Sydney University Master’s student. 

The Hawkesbury-Nepean Riverkeeper Community Day is an initiative of the Hawkesbury-Nepean Riverkeepers Waterkeeper Alliance. This original initiative is currently under renewal, with a new collaborative RCE Greater Western Sydney (RCE GWS) working group from Western Sydney University (comprising RCE GWS), Greater Sydney Local Land Services, Greater Sydney Landcare Network (GLSN) with Streamwatch and GLSN member groups: Cattai Hills Environment Network, Hawkesbury Nepean Landcare Network and Hawkesbury Environment Network.  

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(Photo (right): Hands-on workshop on the bank of the Hawkesbury-Nepean River for WED 2021. Photo credit: Josh Newman)