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By Natalie Kikken 20 March 2022 3 min read

Use of plastic is expected to double by 2040. The time is now to turn the tide on plastic waste.

The plastic pollution issue

The tide needs to turn on how much plastic we use, and where it ends up.

For every metre of coastline across the globe, there’s the equivalent of seven grocery bags full of rubbish. Soft plastics, like food packaging, are the biggest killers to marine life[Link will open in a new window]. And of the litter found along Australia’s coastlines, three-quarters of it is plastic[Link will open in a new window]. In addition to this, plastic use is expected to double by 2040. This is unsustainable.

Therefore, we’ve announced our Ending Plastic Waste Mission. We’re joining forces with government, industry, researchers and the Australian community to transform plastic pollution into a useful resource.

From plastic waste to wealth

Our aim is to change the way we use, make, recycle and dispose of plastics. This will significantly reduce plastic waste ending up on land and in our seas. And even better, we can use plastic waste to our advantage but turning it from a waste into a commodity.

We’re tackling the issue head-on with a range of science and technology solutions across the entire plastics supply chain.

Most items of plastic in our environment started in someone’s hand. Thus, we need to stop it at the source.

Plastic-tastic solutions

It will take a myriad of solutions to reduce plastic waste. But the time is now to create change. Here are some plastic-tastic solutions already underway.

Compostable and biodegradable plastic

We’ve teamed up with Murdoch University to establish a new Bioplastics Innovation Hub.   

The Hub aims to develop new bio-derived plastics to transition away from petroleum-based plastics. It will develop a new generation of 100 per cent compostable bio-derived packaging. This can then be used for the sustainable production of bottles, caps and wrappers. The material will be able to degrade both on land and in water.

The first key focus area will be a $12 million co-investment with WA-based biotechnology company Ecopha Biotech Pty Ltd. The partnership will develop a new process for water bottle production using compostable bioplastics derived from waste products from the food industry. 

Compostable plastics is a fast-growing area of research and development. Globally, the value of the plastic waste industry is around $87 billion.

New bio-derived plastics innovations will provide industry with new commercialisation opportunities. This will then help build sustainable and economic opportunities to grow Australia’s bio-manufacturing industries.

We’re on a mission to change the way we make, use, recycle and dispose of plastics. ©  Nick Pitsas

Tackling a global problem

Plastic waste isn't just a domestic challenge. It's a global issue.

We are working with a range of international partners to apply best practice on managing plastic waste.

Our global plastic pollution survey[Link will open in a new window] has been helping countries identify hotspots for rubbish in their waterways to develop intervention methods.

We also launched the Plastics Innovation Hub Indonesia[Link will open in a new window] to support the scaling of deep-tech solutions to tackle plastic waste in the region. This is set to roll out to other countries in the Indo-Pacific too. We are also working with India[Link will open in a new window] to develop recycling innovation and a roadmap to better manage its waste.

How much rubbish is where: help us find out!

You can support us by collecting data on what rubbish is where.

Our national plastic pollution survey will tell us how much plastic pollution there is across Australia. It will give us a picture of the types of rubbish ending up on our streets and beaches. This will then help us identify what methods would work best to reduce it.

Conversation Volunteers Australia is helping us with our data collection efforts. So far, more than 3000 Australians have helped collect 270,000 items of rubbish. They have also removed 9000 kilos worth! You can sign up here[Link will open in a new window].

Further innovations as part of our mission include researching the digestive processes of certain insects to understand if they can be used to breakdown waste, advanced recycling[Link will open in a new window] technologies to tackle hard-to-recycle plastics, PVC recycling[Link will open in a new window] to save it from landfill, and testing seaweed-derived polymers as a substitute for petroleum-based plastic.

We are working with a range of partners for this mission.

Together, we can end plastic waste. Join us.

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