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Updated: Aug 14, 2018

On Friday 6th July, in celebration of Plastic Free July, we officially launched TEC's exciting new plastic pollution program, AUSMAP, at Manly Cove.

Dr Scott Wilson and his students demonstrate to the ABC how we measure microplastics on the beach

AUSMAP's Program Director Dr Michelle Blewitt was interviewed live on the ABC Breakfast Show with Wendy Harmer early that morning, discussing the launch details and why plastic pollution in our oceans is such a major problem.  Meanwhile, AUSMAP's Research Scientist Dr Scott Wilson and his students were demonstrating to a crowd of media and other guests on the beach at Manly Cove, how AUSMAP participants will collect and identify microplastics. Also at the water's edge the STRAWklers, two plastic activists in wet suits, took a dive for the media, resurfacing with handfuls of plastic rubbish, to illustrate just how much plastic has become endemic to Sydney's harbour.

James Griffin MP with Dr Michelle Blewitt learning about microplastics

By 10:00am guests had begun to arrive, including James Griffin MP (Member for Manly), Greg Piper MP (Member for Lake Macquarie), Emily Dyball (policy advisor for Justin Field, Greens Member for the NSW Legislative Council), members of Environmental and Zoo Education centres and representatives from council, not-for-profit organisations and AUSMAP sponsors. 

Guests included Operation Straw, Surfrider Foundation Australia and James Griffin MP

Dr Michelle Blewitt giving a talk about AUSMAP, watched by Dr Scott Wilson and Jeff Angel

After photo opportunities, the launch began with an opening speech from Total Environment Centre's (TEC) Director Jeff Angel, thanking all the partners and sponsors involved in the project, as well as the hardworking AUSMAP team. Mr Angel said he was  tremendously proud of how quickly the AUSMAP project had developed into a world-first initiative with huge potential. 

Dr Scott Wilson and his students providing a demonstration of how microplastics are collected, sorted and counted

This was followed by Acknowledgement of Country by Lisa Wriley, thanking the Guringai people, the traditional owners of the Manly area.  Dr Michelle Blewitt then addressed attendees with an explanation of the project and how community and high school students will be critical to the project's success.  AUSMAP's Research Scientist, Dr Scott Wilson followed with a run through of the science behind measuring microplastics and how they are affecting our wildlife. Guests were then invited to the beach for a demonstration of the methodology for collecting, sorting and quantifying microplastic. 

Catering provided by Infinity Bakery

After the informative demonstration, guests were invited into Manly Art Gallery & Museum for morning tea - with not a piece of plastic involved - provided by Infinity Bakery a member of one of our partners, Responsible Cafes.  Pastries included savoury scones, spinach and ricotta rolls and croissants; and in true Plastic Free July style and in support of Responsible Cafes, tea and coffee was served in mugs or BYO cups.

Microscope investigations

Guests mingled during morning tea and were encouraged to help sort and identify the different types of microplastics collected from the morning's demonstration, and observe them under microscopes. 

With further media opportunities and more mingling in the Manly Art Gallery, guests slowly left as the launch came to an end. 

Over the next 24 hours AUSMAP hit the mainstream news cycle with extensive audio, video and print coverage on the ABC, a channel 7 news piece and even an article in the Chinese Epoch times. The STRAWklers media stunt proved very popular.

Thank you to all those who joined for the launch of this fantastic initiative! Hope to see you all at our next AUSMAP event. 

Written by: Naomi Huynh (volunteer of AUSMAP)

Photos: Rianti Bieler, Mel Liu and Naomi Huynh



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