Brisbane, Australia — A massive cyclone is being blamed for the first increase in plastic bottles found in southeast Queensland waterways in the past four years.
Healthy Land and Water, an independent, non-profit, Brisbane-based organization that aims to improve sustainable use of land and waterways, conducts an annual survey of the region's waterways.
The 2017 report, released Dec. 18, said more than 16,000 plastic bottles were collected from rivers in Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Logan and Ipswich in the 12 months that ended in June.
Severe tropical cyclone Debbie, which hit Queensland in March, killed 14 people and caused US$1.85 billion in flooding and damages.
Healthy Land and Water CEO Julie McLellan said single-use plastic water bottles accounted for 22 percent of the total rubbish collected from the rivers.
"It's the first time plastic bottle litter has increased in the past four years, possibly due to the large amount of litter washed into waterways during cyclone Debbie," she said.
She said Australians spend US$460 million a year on bottled water.
Healthy Land and Water has embarked on a project to install water refilling stations in public places to discourage consumers from buying single-use plastic bottles.