Australia and India are working together to achieve a zero plastic waste economy. We have been appointed to lead the research that will address this huge challenge.

The challenge

Over 300 million tonnes of plastic is created globally each year yet only 10 per cent of this plastic waste is recycled. Plastic waste also leaks into the environment and creates large problems for terrestrial and marine ecosystems and species.

Both Australia and India need to take action to reduce plastics waste by driving innovation and enabling new technologies and business models that achieve this. By doing so, both countries can reduce the environmental and health impacts of plastic waste and enable new growth industries and employment in a zero plastic waste economy.

At a meeting in June 2020, Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia and Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India agreed to collaborate on an ambitious program to reduce plastic waste. In this context the Australian Government has announced to build an industry and research collaboration that identifies new groundbreaking technologies to drive innovation in the plastic supply chain and to create a circular model for plastic.

Our response

Plastic eater bottle with green and blue lids.

Plastic water bottles. Image Flickr/Thomas Pliel

The Australian government seeks to leverage CSIRO's research and networks to identify opportunities for Indian authorities and Australian firms to build recycling capabilities and inform the circular economy of plastics.

CSIRO leads an international team of Australian and Indian premier research institutes including the University of New South Wales, the University of Technology in Sydney, the Energy and Resources Institute, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and Development Alternatives.

The research activity will:

  • Develop metrics and establish datasets that assess the magnitude of the plastics waste problem in India and how quickly it is growing
  • Identify the main supply chains for different types of plastic and the associated waste flows and their destination and leakages to waterways and oceans
  • Co-develop an industry and technology roadmap for a plastics circular economy unlocking future opportunities of plastic recycling and for industrial redesign and the creation of new materials, products, processes and business models that further circularity
  • Identify new industries and enabling sector change through new infrastructure, regulation, market access, skills, culture change and strategic planning achieved through the roadmap process
  • Create innovation capacity by establishing demonstration projects for plastic recycling and industrial redesign by local and Australian industry partnerships.

The research collaboration will work closely with industry and government stakeholders and will evaluate the economic and policy implications of a circular economy for plastics.

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