Ending plastic waste: targeting a 90 per cent decrease in unmanaged plastic arriving in Australia’s oceans by 2025

Dr Britta Denise Hardesty1, Dr Qamar Schuyler1, Tonya Van Der Velde2, Heinz Shandl3, Tom Peat4, Dr. Chris Wilcox1

1CSIRO, Hobart, Australia, 2CSIRO, Brisbane, Australia, 3CSIRO, Canberra, Australia, 4CSIRO, Clayton, Australia


Ocean plastic is a globally recognised environmental concern, with too much plastic production ending up in the ocean. Plastic pollution is contaminating our land and seas, and challenging our industries and citizens.

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) is embarking on an ambitious project where we aim to reduce 90% of plastic entering Australia’s ocean by 2025. By working across the supply chain, from creation to disposal and recycling, CSIRO will tackle the challenge from multiple angles including supply chain logistics, data collection innovations and improving the value of plastic such that recycling is enhanced. The multi-disciplinary scientific approach will bring together sensor development, machine learning and modelling with data from industry, retail, waste collection and disposal and citizens.

CSIRO’s approach is to tackle four primary elements that underlie plastics waste in the environment: 1) new packaging, 2) reducing the cost of data, including using novel sensors and AI, 3) generating value for plastic, and 4) the circular economy. These four elements are complementary, and each will yield a decrease in the use and loss of plastics to achieve the overall goal. Domestic successes will be scaled up and applied globally through our international partners, leading to massive improvements in plastic waste management by 2030.


Denise is a research scientist with CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere, based in Hobart Tasmania. She has been leading a diverse array of research projects for the past 10 years, with her main research projects focused on the impacts of marine debris and the development of analytical tools for tackling illegal unreported and unregulated fishing activities.

Her applied work focuses on using sound science to inform and underpin policy and decision making. She has a broad ecology background and has worked on a range of research questions on threatened species, impacts of invasive species, and human-wildlife interactions around the globe. She’s also been working with fishers, fisheries management and stakeholder groups to ameliorate the impacts of derelict fishing gear and reduce the amount of gear lost into the environment.