Plastic pollution on Australia’s coasts has decreased by 29% since 2013 CSIRO research identifies the best local government strategies.


Credit: MarkPiovesan/Getty Images

Plastic pollution is an escalating global problem. Australia now produces 2.5 million tonnes of plastic waste each year, while world-wide production is expected to double by 2040.

This pollution doesn’t just accumulate on our beaches: it can be found on land and other marine environments (heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch?)

But according to a new study by Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, plastic pollution on Australia’s coasts has decreased by 29% since 2013.

The study, which assessed waste reduction efforts in Australia and their effect on coastal pollution, highlights that although Australia’s plastic use has remained constant since 2013, local governments are getting better at preventing and cleaning up pollution.

“Our research set out to identify the local government approaches that have been most effective in reducing coastal plastics and identify the underlying behaviours that can lead to the greatest reduction in plastic pollution,” says lead researcher Dr Kathryn Willis, a recent PhD graduate from the University of Tasmania.

“Whilst plastic pollution is still a global crisis and we still have a long way to go, this research shows that decisions made on the ground, at local management levels, are crucial for the successful reduction of coastal plastic pollution,” she adds.

The study has been published in One Earth.

Local government approaches work

The new research builds upon extensive 2013 CSIRO coastal litter surveys with 563 new surveys and interviews with waste managers across 32 local governments around Australia completed in 2019.

The results found that, although there was a decrease in the overall national average coastal pollution by 29%, some surveyed municipalities showed an increase in local litter by up to 93%, while others decreased by up to 73%.

Since global plastic pollution is driven by waste reduction strategies at a local level (regardless of where the pollution originates), researchers then focused on identifying which local government approaches had the greatest effect on these levels of coastal pollution.

To do this they sorted local government waste management actions into three categories of human behaviour, including:

  • Planned behaviour – strategies like recycling guides, information and education programs, and voluntary clean-up initiatives.
  • Crime prevention – waste management strategies like illegal dumping surveillance and beach cleaning by local governments.
  • Economic – actions like kerb-side waste and recycling collection, hard waste collections and shopping bag bans.



Plastic pollution on Australia’s coasts has decreased by 29% since 2013

CSIRO research identifies the best local government strategies.

A beach with plastic pollution in the sand

Credit: MarkPiovesan/Getty Images


Publicado en Artículos.

Cuba, La Habana. Investigador Titular del Centro de Investigaciones Pesqueras, doctor en Ciencias en el Uso, Manejo y Preservación de los Recursos, y maestro en Ciencias del Agua.

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