Have local waste management strategies adapted to the growing pressures of plastic waste on Australia’s coastlines?

Ms Kathryn Willis1,2

1CMS & School of Social Sciences, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia, 2CSIRO Oceans & Atmosphere, Hobart, Australia


Plastic waste is a common sight on Australian coastlines, harming coastal economies, communities and ecosystems.  To mitigate the harm resulting from plastic waste, local governments have developed a range of waste abatement strategies. But which strategies are most successful at reducing waste? In 2013, we found the best local waste abatement strategies included anti-littering and illegal dumping campaigns in combination with infrastructure such as litter traps on stormwater drains. Since 2013, however, plastic production has exponentially increased, as has the amount of waste entering the environment. In this same period, public concern about plastic pollution and its management has also grown. Six years after our previous work, we asked whether local waste management has adapted to meet the growing waste we produce. We also asked whether the previously successful strategies are still the best approaches to reduce plastic leakage into the environment? In 2018/19 we completed coastal litter surveys around Australia and interviewed waste managers from 35 local councils across all states and territories. From these, we present results about the effectiveness of current waste management strategies. We also discuss whether local councils have adapted their waste management practices and seen a corresponding decrease in litter along their coastline.


Kathy is from the small town of Yolla on the north-west coast of Tasmania. She is in the final year of her Ph.D. at the University of Tasmania’s School of Social Sciences, in partnership with CSIRO, the Centre for Marine Socioecology and the NESP Marine Biodiversity Hub. Kathy’s current research examines the success of local government waste management strategies in reducing waste from entering the coastal and marine environment. During her Ph.D. program Kathy has run marine litter workshops at the Udayana University, Bali and numerous Tasmanian primary and secondary schools. Prior to commencing a Ph.D. Kathy worked on cool-temperature reef systems, southern Bluefin tuna populations and microplastics in marine sediments.