National Baseline Project


Marine debris has been identified as a significant risk to biodiversity, economies, human health, fisheries management, tourism and invasive species transport. Most of what ends up in our oceans originates from land. CSIRO’s research has found that around three quarters of the waste on our Australian coastlines is plastic. As part of a national monitoring effort, CSIRO is teaming up with citizen scientists around the country to build a low-cost user-friendly dataset that can enable long-term assessment and monitoring of our litter – before it becomes marine debris.  By collecting information across the landscape (rather than only in coastal areas), we can better understand the sources, movement, distribution and impacts our waste can have on people, wildlife, and sensitive ecosystems. Hence, we are collecting data not only along our beaches, but in upland and riverine areas.


National baseline project aim

This goal of this project is to provide a national baseline of waste leakage, including hotspots, in the environment – around all of Australia. This will provide a core data set against which future measurements can be compared, allowing us to evaluate how effective different policies and community actions are in reducing litter lost to the environment.



Ten thousand sites around the country have been randomly selected using GIS and statistical analysis. These sites are being surveyed as part of a larger global plastic project, and so we have the information at hand to inform policy and decision-making. We are conducting transects at as many of these randomly selected sites as possible, ensuring sampling at a broad array of habitats, land uses, groundcovers, population densities, and numerous other factors that we have learned are important based upon earlier research.