CSIRO on a mission to end plastic waste


March 20, 2022
Press release

An initial $50 million will be invested in CSIRO’s Ending Plastic Waste mission funded by contributions from CSIRO, industry, government, academia and other organizations and will develop science and innovation of cutting edge to change the way Australia makes, uses, recycles and disposes of plastics.

Australians consume one million tonnes of single-use plastic each year, of which only 12% is recycled. Three-quarters of the plastic found along Australia’s coastline is single-use plastic.

With global plastic use set to double by 2040, CSIRO chief executive Larry Marshall said the challenge was bigger than any institution and required a Team Australia approach.

“The Ending Plastic Waste Mission will bring together the entire innovation system, government, industry and academia to turn science into solutions that will benefit the environment and create economic opportunity for Australia” , said Dr. Marshall.

“By working together, aligning our efforts and pushing each other further for a common cause, we can tackle seemingly impossible challenges – like protecting our environment while making sustainability profitable for business. And we can get there faster. .

The plastic waste industry is valued at approximately US$87 billion globally and the development of circular economy initiatives for plastic recycling is expected to generate US$67 billion by 2025.

“By transforming plastic waste into a renewable resource, the mission will provide collaborative science and manufacturing capabilities to pilot new technologies across the entire plastics supply chain and grow Australia’s circular economy,” the mission said. Dr Marshall.

Mission leader Dr Deborah Lau said it would take a combination of solutions to tackle the problem of plastic pollution.

“Our mission will be the national catalyst for systematic change to address plastic pollution,” Dr Lau said.

“This will drive a major coordinated response across the innovation sector and bring science and technology to the forefront to help deliver a myriad of solutions to end plastic waste.”

Research under the mission includes:

  • Changing the way we make, use and recycle plastics by developing innovative technologies, materials, products and processes.
  • Supporting a Sustainable Circular Plastics Economy using plastic waste to generate economic benefits, while reducing adverse effects on human health and the environment.
  • Revolutionizing packaging and waste management systems; generate effective solutions for recycling; advise on the development and implementation of standards; analytics and machine learning to inform decision-making; and create systemic change.

The mission includes a collaboration between CSIRO and Murdoch University to establish a new center for bioplastics innovation.

Murdoch University professor Daniel Murphy said the Hub will develop a new generation of 100% compostable products like bottles, caps and wrappers, which are currently contributing to the problem of plastic pollution.

“Demand for compostable bioplastics is expected to grow rapidly as global concerns over plastic waste and fossil fuel resources increase the importance of bio-based plastic alternatives,” Professor Murphy said.

“Some bioplastics are already on the market, but most need UV light to break down. Our compostable bioplastics break down in compost, landfills or water, leaving no traces.”

The hub’s first key project will be to work with Ecopha Biotech Pty Ltd to develop a new process for producing water bottles using compostable bioplastics derived from food industry waste.

“New bioplastics innovations will provide industry with new commercialization opportunities and create sustainable and cost-effective opportunities to grow Australia’s biomanufacturing industries,” he said.

Available for interview:

  • Dr. Deborah Lau (End Plastic Waste Mission)
  • Denise Hardesty (marine debris and information for decision-making)
  • Sarah King (advanced recycling and waste innovation)

Other projects also in progress within the framework of the Mission:

National Plastic Pollution Survey

CSIRO is conducting a national plastic pollution survey to understand what types of waste end up where. So far, through the project, 270,000 items have been saved and 9,000 kilos of waste have been removed with the help of volunteers from Conservation Volunteers Australia.

The project focuses on data collected to understand the scope, scale and types of waste lost to the environment. This can help identify hotspots, problem areas and elements, and more importantly, identify methods to prevent our waste from ending up in the environment in the first place.

Indonesia Plastics Innovation Hub

CSIRO and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade are working with Indo-Pacific countries to reduce plastic waste, a critical challenge facing the region.

The new Plastics Innovation Hub Indonesia was launched on March 1 with innovators, investors, community leaders, government, industry and researchers coming together to address the problem of plastics and solutions specific to Indonesia.

The Hub will develop regional innovation capacity and support the scaling up of high-tech solutions to tackle plastic waste.

River trash traps

Stormwater drains and gross pollutant traps are used to prevent waste and sediment from flowing into the environment. But maintenance can be costly and time-consuming.

CSIRO has developed sensor technologies to improve frontline waste management. The network of autonomous sensors monitors the traps to prevent waste from ending up in the ocean.

The sensors and accompanying decision support system will provide near real-time reports of the amount of litter in the stormwater traps. It will also help municipalities to optimize their management actions, by showing them which traps are almost full, so that they can save time, gain efficiency and prevent waste from leaking into our waterways.

Other innovations include research into the digestive processes of certain insects to understand if they can be used to break down waste, advanced recycling technologies to tackle hard-to-recycle plastics, recycling PVC to save it from landfilling and testing of algae-derived polymers as a substitute. for petroleum-based plastic.

Partners and collaborators

The Ending Plastic Waste Mission brings together CSIRO with government partners Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources, NSW Department of Industry and Environmental Planning, Parks Australia, NSW Environmental Trust, Sustainability Victoria; with industry partners Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation, Chemistry Australia, C Sea Solutions, Kimberly-Clark Australia, Circle 8 Clean Technologies, Ostrom Polymers and Phantm; and a number of universities including Monash University, Murdoch University, University of Technology Sydney, University of Queensland, RMIT University, University of Tasmania and University of Australia western.

The mission is also in partnership with a number of international organizations, including the National Science Foundation, the University of Texas at Austin and the US Department of Energy’s BOTTLE Consortium.

Learn more about CSIRO’s Ending Plastic Waste mission here.


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