This was how the riverbank looked in Kendrick Park in 2010.  It no longer looks like this since Marrickville Council has been using the services of people under Community Service Orders.

This was how the riverbank looked in Kendrick Park in 2010. It no longer looks like this since Marrickville Council has been using the services of Corrections who pick up litter along the river every weekend.  This program has made a significant & positive difference.  I wish it was happening the length of the Cooks River.

The issue of litter affects the whole of the Cooks River.  This photo is of Boat Harbbour in Hurlstone Park.  The plastic from here makes its way up & down the river.

The issue of litter affects the whole of the Cooks River as it travels the river with the tides. This photo is of Boat Harbour in Hurlstone Park.

This email was shared with me by a local resident. It is a response from Marrickville Council in regards to plastic bottle & plastic bag use & availability in Marrickville LGA. I think there is much to learn in this email & it is good to see that Council is looking at this issue seriously.

* indicates a weblink at the bottom for those interested in reading further.


“Hello ____, and thank you for your email

As you would know, the state of the Cooks River and its banks is an ongoing issue. However, I have a question: at what level are you thinking of a ban on plastic bottles and bags? Are you thinking just Steele Park, all the parks all the way along the River, or across the whole Marrickville LGA?

A short history of the things that are being done to tackle the problem:

  • Since 2005, Council has been delivering community and retailer programs aimed at reducing the number of plastic shopping bags used in the local area. An initiative called Bagbusters * collaborated with local businesses to develop strategies to reduce the number of plastic bags given away. The Bagbusters education strategy included promoting the reduction message through a variety of media tools and at community events. The initiative was strongly supported by local residents, and to some extent, businesses.
  • In NSW, councils do not have the regulatory powers to enforce a ban, unlike some cities in the USA. A comparative case is that of Fremantle in WA, which attempted to ban bags through a local law, and the state legislative council disallowed the law, based on a clause related to fees. Marrickville Council has instead lobbied to have the issue addressed across the State and National jurisdictions (e.g. through its member ship of the Boomerang Alliance). *
  • A state-level ban is not looking hopeful, partly due to the December 2013 Federal decision to dismantle the COAG Standing Council on Environment and Water as there is no replacement as yet
  • At a national level, the bag ban was discussed in 2008, but the campaign was dropped and it was decided that voluntary targets would be pursued instead.

To understand the complexity of an outright ban as experienced in other cities in the world, have a look at the process in Austin in the US.

An interesting summary from the NSW government from April last year (especially the conclusion), notes that when plastic bags were banned, the purchase and use of bin liners increased. This shows the societal need to be far better informed about why a ban is implemented. There’s also an interesting review of the ban in the ACT.

Finally, the Director of Environmental Services pointed out that it would be very difficult and resource intensive to enforce banning bags and plastic bottles along the River on Council-owned land and facilities.

Council is taking positive action at the local level:

  • Internally, Council is supporting soft plastic recycling through collections of all employees’ domestically generated soft plastic, and having it collected by an organisation called the RED group. * Council promotes the RED group at every opportunity.
  • The Cooks River Alliance * of 8 Cooks River councils has developed subcatchment management plans for 6 areas. The plans include construction projects, and education and policy initiatives. It has also partnered with Intensive Correctional Services and a team is cleaning stretches along the river every weekend.
  • The annual Marrickville Festival Council has banned the use of plastic bags and provides alternatives for our stall holders, free of charge at the annual Marrickville Festival.
  • Plastic bottles – the Marrickville Council Public Domain Study (in development) is mapping all Council facilities (including bubblers) to see where there are gaps and will recommend location of facilities to fill in the gaps. I.e., it might set maximum separation between bubblers and also locating these in strategic locations such as in centres generally, public transport nodes, bicycle routes, public spaces (parks and squares) and perhaps other locations on major walking routes. Together with an education program, this should help reduce the number of water bottles purchased and littered in our area. See the Manly-Go Tap project * for more.

What you can do:

There are a number of community initiatives and petitions. You could volunteer with the Cooks River Valley Association (and its associated Mudcrabs) as this high profile organisation does a lot of lobbying, including to bring back container deposit legislation. [contact details in blogroll.]

I hope this information is helpful – please feel free to email me directly if not.”


Boomerang Alliance –

RED Group –

Bagbusters –

Manly-Go Tap project –

The Cooks River Alliance –

Nearly Three Months Later, Austin Still Adjusting to Plastic Bag Ban –

The Australian Capital Territory banned plastic bags on 1st November 2011. An interim report a year later said there had been a 41% decrease in plastic bags, a 31% decrease in plastic material to landfill & an increase of 31% for bin liner sales – way below the predicted 70%.   The report also says there was high retail compliance & high community acceptance. 13,700 reusable bags were given free to the community by the ACT government & stakeholders. From the report – “Nearly four years of South Australia experience has resulted in a significant reduction of plastic bags in their litter stream.”  South Australia also has a ‘Cash for Containers’ program.

Litter at Steel Park Marrickville.

Litter at Steel Park Marrickville.