Fitzroy Basin Association:
Drain Buddies, guardians of the reef

Humans are responsible for 100 per cent of marine debris. To tackle this problem, three of central Queensland’s largest towns (Rockhampton, Yeppoon and Gladstone) installed ‘Drain Buddies’ at key locations to capture debris before it could enter local waterways and created source reduction solutions.

Drain Buddies are heavy-duty baskets installed at litter hotspot locations that only allow water to pass through, collecting all other matter including litter, organic debris and sediment. Matter collected is emptied quarterly, then sorted, analysed and recorded in the Australian Marine Debris Initiative database administered by Tangaroa Blue.

The project, which commenced in June 2019 concluded its sixth servicing and audit cycle in November 2020. Since this time, the Drain Buddies have discovered some significant results: 40,079 pieces of litter were stopped from entering the Great Barrier Reef across 27 drains with a total weight of 1,002 kilograms (over 1
metric tonne).

To date, the project has implemented four source reduction strategies based on the data collected from the Drain Buddies audits. The data collected from the Drain Buddies has provided unrivalled insight into what was getting thrown away, where it came from and what types of source reduction campaigns provide
the best results for the environment.

Bethlea Bell, FBA’s Community Participation Officer, says this project demonstrates an upstream solution to a downstream problem. “This project is exciting as it gives us a better understanding of human behaviour and allows us to measure the success of our work in real-time,” she said.

In Gladstone, a strategy was rolled out in the harbour city to reduce plastic-lined sugar sachets entering drains. Since the strategy rollout, there has been a 100% reduction in the appearance of plastic lined sugar sachets in Gladstone drains.

130 plastic lined sugar sachets were recovered from Gladstone CBD drains between June 2019 and May 2020, with the mid-2020 data revealing this number had dramatically reduced to ZERO!

In Yeppoon, a strategy successfully reduced the number of plastic straws entering drains on the town’s main street. Further inland, Rockhampton erected cigarette butt bins to encourage locals to correctly dispose of the waste item in identified hot-spots in the city’s business district.

While the source reduction strategies have had proven success there is still work to be done. The litter breakdown across the full six cycles showed 17,384 individual litter items in Gladstone, 12,532 in Livingstone and 10,793 in Rockhampton. With the help of community groups and their members, FBA continues to educate residents on wasteful behaviours and the impact on regional waterways and the Great Barrier Reef.

This project was made possible through a Local Action Community Reef Protection grant, funded by the partnership between the Australian Government’s Reef Trust and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, delivered by Fitzroy Basin Association Inc. (FBA), on behalf of the Capricorn Coast and Gladstone Local Marine Advisory Committees.

  • 40,079 pieces of litter
  • 27 drains
  • 1,002 kgs of litter

*data as at November 2020

Project success, Achievement by numbers