The success of waste campaigns and policies at reducing plastic waste into the marine environment

Miss Kathryn Willis1,2, Ms Clementine Maureaud3, Mr Chris Wilcox2, Ms Britta Denise Hardesty2

1School of Social Sciences, University Of Tasmania , Hobart, Australia, 2CSIRO: Oceans and Atmosphere, Hobart, Australia, 3Supagro University of Advanced Agricultural Science Agronomy and Rural Management , Montpellier, France


Plastic production is increasing globally and in turn we are seeing a rise of plastic waste lost into the coastal and marine environment. To combat this issue, there is an increase in policies that target specific types of plastic waste (such as microbeads and plastic shopping bags). Given that such anthropogenic waste have environmental impacts, reduce the tourism income of an area and result in human health issues, identifying effective abatement policies is imperative to reducing waste and litter before it enters the ocean. Within Australia, state and local governments employ a plethora of policies, campaigns and strategies to target abatement and reduce litter and waste inputs to the environment. We compared awareness-raising campaigns (such as ‘Don’t be a Tosser’, Clean Up Australia and Bin your Butts cigarette campaign) and state-enacted policies (e.g. Plastic Shopping Bag Ban, Zero Waste Strategy and Recycling Strategy) aimed at targeting human behaviour to reduce waste. Investments in campaigns led to larger reductions of waste in the environment than did investment in policies. Illegal dumping, litter prevention, recycling, education and Clean Up Australia programs all significantly reduced waste along a council’s coastline. Additionally, we found councils that invested in a coastal waste management budget had fewer littered or waste items on the coastline within their jurisdictions.


Kathy Willis is a Ph.D. candidate at CSIRO and the School of Social Sciences, University of Tasmania. In 2015 she received First Class Honours in a Bachelor of Science with her thesis on the distribution and likely sources of marine debris along  coastal and estuarine shorelines of Tasmania.  She is currently studying the effectiveness of waste abatement strategies at reducing the input of waste into the environment.