Ocean washes in a plastic maritime mystery

WEIGHING in at more than 60kg, a lump of plastic found on the beach proved just as much a risk to people as it did to the environment.

The plastic, found off Wooli by beach-goers on Thursday, is currently being investigated by a team of experts at the SCU National Marine Science Centre in Coffs Harbour.

Professor Steve Smith, leading the 'forensic garbology' study, said the clump posed a risk for boaters when it was in the water.

He said the semi-burned plastic most likely came from a ship with South American ties as some of the pieces of plastic offered clues.

Prof Smith pointed out plastic bags within the clump, were used to store eggs, were in Spanish.

"It's narrowing it down to South America," he said.

Prof Smith said the plastic clump also posed a risk to the environment after tube worms were found on it.

He said the tube worms would be assessed by external experts to find out their origins.

Prof Smith estimated the plastic clump had been in the sea for more than a month.

He said it was legal for ships to burn plastic on board but were required by maritime law to dispose of it on shore.

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