A single plastic blue water bottle laying on top of seaweed on a beach
It can take just a moment for plastic to enter the environment, but the environmental impacts last for centuries. By 2050 it is estimated that 99% of sea birds will have ingested plastic, which often leads to slow and painful deaths. By 2050 it is estimated that the amount of plastic in our oceans will outweigh fish.
Actions to reduce plastics leaking into the environment
The Australian Government will pursue coordinated global action on marine litter and microplastic pollution through a new global agreement.
Work with the textile and whitegoods sectors on an industry-led phase-in of microfibre filters on new residential and commercial washing machines by 1 July 2030.
The Australian Government to initiate an industry-led cross-sectoral stewardship taskforce to reduce cigarette butt litter in Australia and consider potential stewardship schemes.
Partner with states and territories and the CSIRO on solutions to prevent plastic debris entering the marine environment via stormwater.
Partner with organisations to establish a national monitoring protocol and database for plastic pollution.
The Australian Government has committed $14.8 million to remove ghost nets and marine debris pollution from strategic locations in Northern Australia.
Industry to participate in Operation Clean Sweep® to eliminate pre-production plastic resin pellet, flake, recycled chip and powder loss.
Continue to implement the Threat Abatement Plan for the impacts of marine debris on the vertebrate wildlife of Australia’s coasts and oceans.
The Australian Government is supporting community-led projects that address local environmental priorities and deliver positive environmental outcomes. Over 1,330 projects, totalling $18 million, were funded in 2019-20.
The Australian Government has invested $100 million over 4 years to protect our environment for future generations. Projects delivered under the ERF focus on protecting threatened and migratory species and their habitat across Australia’s coasts, oceans and waterways.
Establish an Indonesia-Australia Systemic Innovation Lab on Marine Plastic Waste under the leadership of the CSIRO and the Indonesian Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries.
The Australian Government has committed $16 million to help Pacific Island countries tackle single use plastics that harm the ocean.
Reduce shipping waste by implementing the International Maritime Organization’s Marine Litter from Ships and the Ship-Generated Garbage in the Pacific Action Plan.
Two people wearing swim suits and holding surfboards walking toward water on the beach
Pollution: garbages, plastic, and wastes on the beach after storms
Close up image of a recycling plastic. Zero waste concept.
Environment Restoration Fund
The Australian Government has invested $100 million over 4 years (from 2019-20 to 2022-23) to help protect our environment for future generations through the Environment Restoration Fund (ERF). Projects delivered under the ERF focus on protecting threatened and migratory species and their habitat, protecting Australia’s coasts, oceans and waterways, and the clean-up, recovery and recycling of waste.
In February 2020, Conservation Volunteers Australia was awarded $5 million under the ERF to expand the successful ReefClean program to other parts of Australia. The project will help deliver a nation–wide community activation campaign to reduce the threat plastics and other debris pose to waterways and coastlines. It will support the clean-up of marine debris and monitoring activities in coastal regions, rivers and creeks across the country.
In March 2020, Clean Up Australia was awarded $300,000 over three years under the ERF to mobilise the community and volunteers to clean up litter from beaches all over Australia . This project will be important in reducing the flow of plastic litter into our oceans. Clean Up Australia reports that plastic represents 31% of all rubbish reported by their volunteers, with 83% of the plastics collected found in our waterways and coastal regions.
In February 2020, $300,000 was awarded to Keep Australia Beautiful under the ERF to support student environmental education under the Eco-Schools accreditation program. The program offers hands-on participation by students in undertaking litter audits, clean–ups and litter action days with their local community. Eco-Schools aims to empower students to be the leaders of change in their school and surrounding community, resulting in reduction of litter at source and its presence in the land and marine environment.
In March 2020, $300,000 was awarded to Clean4Shore under the ERF to help tackle the issue of marine debris. Clean4Shore partners with local schools, youth and social service organisations and commercial businesses to undertake boat–based clean–up activities. Targeting litter hot spots in local waterways, Clean4Shore has helped to highlight the issue of marine debris to local communities. To date, the program has removed over 400 tonnes of waste from waterways on the New South Wales Central Coast.
The Australian Government has partnered with Tangaroa Blue Foundation and Conservation Volunteers Australia on the ReefClean Project. The project removed over 24 tonnes of debris from beaches of the Great Barrier Reef in 2019. Debris included plastics, discarded fishing gear, cigarette lighters and toothbrushes.
The 5-year project received $5 million through the Australian Government’s Reef Trust. It ran 49 community clean-up activities and regularly monitored 33 beaches for marine debris during its first full year of operation.
The Australian Government’s National Environment Science Program has allocated $100,000 in funding towards the project ‘Addressing management of waste and marine debris in remote Northern Australian communities including Cape York’.
Led by North Australian Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance Limited, the project is conducting research into the status of waste management in the Gulf of Carpentaria. It also seeks to draw on best practice models to improve waste disposal and management in remote areas.
The Australian Government’s National Environment Science Program has allocated $50,000 in funding towards the project ‘Microplastics in the Australian marine environment’. Led by the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies at the University of Tasmania, the project will inform national policy and actions to reduce the release and impacts of microplastics on our environment and oceans.
Australia’s phase out of microbeads from personal care and cosmetic products has been successful. In late 2020, the Department commissioned an independent assessment of rinse-off personal care, cosmetic and cleaning products sold in Australian retail outlets, including online. The assessment found that, of the approximately 8100 unique products inspected, 99.3 per cent were microbead-free. For the 0.7 per cent of products that were found to contain microbeads, facial scrubs, facial cleansers and face masks were the most common product types using microbeads.
To date, major supermarket brands such as Coles, Aldi and Woolworths have removed their own-brand products containing microbeads from shelves. Mainstream beauty brands such as The Body Shop, L’Oréal and Unilever have replaced microbeads in their products with natural exfoliators, such as such as clays, bamboo beads, silica, cornmeal, fruit kernels and nut shells.
Parks Australia continues its work every year cleaning up the Australia’s distant islands in the Coral Sea Marine Park and conducting surveys of marine debris.
The Coral Sea Marine Park is over 400km from Australia’s mainland, and even further from many of the other countries where the plastic originates. Marine debris threatens nesting seabirds and turtles in this remote area, with these pristine islands home to some of the largest, and most important, seabird and green turtle nesting sites in Australia.
Through the Communities Environment Program, the Australian Government is supporting community-led projects that address local environmental priorities and deliver positive environmental outcomes. Over 1,330 projects, totalling $18 million in funding, have been approved through the Program, which ran in 2019-20.
Funded projects that have a focus on reducing waste and litter include:
- Microplastics impact on aquatic environments - $20,000 for the Australian Trust for Conservation Volunteers. This will be used to engage volunteers in hands-on removal of rubbish from river and creek systems, and citizen science activities at four project locations. The project will educate people about rubbish in urban habitats. It will also provide data on macro and micro plastics within the wider Sturt community in South Australia.
- Scouts ‘hop’ into recycling - $12,410 for Victorian Branch of the Scout Association Australia to implement a recycling drop off point at the Norlane West Scout Hall. Supported by educational activities for community, the project will reduce the waste that goes to landfill and remove litter from waterways within the local environment.
- Beach clean-up - $20,000 to Protect our 1 INC to organise beach clean-up days. The clean-up days will be supported by demonstrations, events and school activities to raise awareness of the effects of litter, plastics, marine debris and micro-plastic contamination on local marine habitats. This will reduce the amount of contaminants entering the ocean. It will also build community awareness and knowledge of coastal environment conservation within the Kingsford Smith electorate.
- Sandringham Harbour Sea Bins - $20,000 to Sandringham Yacht Club to install sea bins, waste trolleys and to construct a waste station to remove litter, micro plastics particles and fibres from waterways. This will improve water quality, increase recycling and educate visitors on waste management within Sandringham Harbour.
- Farm Plastic Recycling Program - $16,600 to the Mid Coast Dairy Advancement Group to start a plastic recycling program for farmers to buy a bale press. It will also provide education on strategies for the reduction of farm plastic waste. This will enhance the plastic recycling opportunities within the local community in the mid-north coast of New South Wales.
- Sea Bins in Scarborough - $17,500 to the Seabin Foundation to install a seabin, collect pollution data, and educate the public about ocean pollution management. This will improve water quality and ocean habitats within the area of Scarborough Marina.
- Decompose plastic waste using microwave technology - $20,000 to James Cook University for a project that will process and decompose plastic waste by purchasing and utilising a high-powered microwave source. This will enable the facility to process materials faster and more efficiently. It will reduce the amount of plastic waste going to landfill and the environment.
- Darwin’s waterways clean-up - $35,000 for the Amateur Fishermens Association of Northern Territory. The project will construct and install hook, line and sinker bins at key fishing locations and litter socks at stormwater outflows. It will also conduct a preliminary awareness building workshop around enhancing fish habitat. This will reduce the amount of pollution and empower the fishing community to monitor and positively impact the health within the local marine environment.
- Rubbish as a Resource Plastic Waste Recycling and Re-Use Program - $15,000 for the Moreline School to develop and implement a plastic waste collection, recycling and re-use program designed by students and staff from local schools. This will divert plastic waste from landfill into tangible new uses and engage the school community in long-term waste reduction strategies within the West Perth area.
- Upcycle hard plastics in Geraldton - $10,000 to Friends of Geraldton to establish a community drop off point for plastics for recycling into reusable aggregate for concrete, roads and other products. This will reduce the threat of toxins from plastics leaching into the soil and increase local community knowledge on recycling within the Geraldton and the Midwest region.