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By  Natalie Kikken 26 March 2024 2 min read

Key points

  • Our Ending Plastic Waste Mission aims to change the way we make, use, recycle and dispose of plastic.
  • Torres Webb is fostering partnerships with Indigenous organisations and communities to tackle plastic waste.
  • Torres says small actions can make a difference for protecting Country.

Protecting country: Torres Webb is leading Indigenous engagement for our Ending Plastic Waste Mission

Torres Webb grew up on his traditional homelands Erub (Darnley) Island in the Torres Strait, and Far North Queensland.

There, he was surrounded by nature which gave him an appreciation for looking after country. But he also saw challenges around managing plastic waste.

Torres is the Indigenous Partnership Lead for our Ending Plastic Waste Mission. In his role, he is passionate about fostering Indigenous-led ideas to tackle plastic pollution. We asked him to tell us more.

What is your role with the Ending Plastic Waste Mission?

I joined the mission to foster Indigenous collaborations. I see myself as a knowledge broker connecting Indigenous innovations and our science.

Many remote and regional areas don’t have the same infrastructure to deal with plastic waste as our cities. We need to understand the landscape and its people to generate ideas that can make a difference on a local level.

Part of my work is looking at community-led initiatives and how science can support them. This will empower Indigenous businesses and communities to identify effective solutions and determine their own futures.

Why is ending plastic waste important to you?

Ending plastic waste highlights the importance of looking after Country.

Erub Island aerial view
Torres spent time growing up on Erub (Darnley) Island in the Torres Strait, where he developed an appreciation for nature ©  Kim Wirth

I have seen the impacts of plastic pollution. I have seen ghost nets washed up on our shores. I have seen how plastic waste can choke our reefs and play havoc on our marine ecosystems. We need to work together to keep our homes, communities and oceans clean. Plastic waste impacts us all. We need solutions.

One important way to address plastic in our communities is improvements in infrastructure. We need to look at suitable systems that are effective for plastic waste in rural areas. This includes manufacturing, recycling and education.

Another effective approach is improving procurement systems. This includes working with Indigenous companies in the supply chain. This will generate viable and appropriate solutions. It will also build resilience and help boost local economies and jobs.

What do you do in your everyday life to help reduce plastic waste?

Keeping it simple is key. I live in Cairns and visit my local market each week for my food supplies. This significantly reduces any need for plastic packaging. To pack and take my groceries home, I use a cardboard box. I also don’t use plastic bags for fresh produce.

We can all think about the purchases we make. For example, when I leave home, I make sure I have my re-useable water bottle with me. Small behavioural changes add up. If every Australian switched to a re-useable water bottle, it would reduce millions of single-use plastic bottles and pollution in the environment.

What are you excited about?

Social and behaviour change is an integral part of ending plastic waste. There is great potential to support communities with their own ideas and initiatives.

My background in environmental science allows me to see the potential to deliver positive impact for people, our lands and our coasts. I also work across other research areas in CSIRO to improve environmental practices. This includes fisheries, governance and climate research. I am excited about driving Indigenous leadership and connecting it with our initiatives. We all can be the change.

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