During eXXpedition’s fourth Virtual Voyage, the multidisciplinary crew took part in a virtual discussion with local representatives from the Commonwealth of Australia to talk about the local challenges of the global plastics issue. This post summarises the thoughts, ideas, challenges and solutions discussed during the session. 


Officially the Commonwealth of Australia, Australia is the world’s 6th largest country by total area and the only country in the world that covers an entire continent. It lies between the Pacific and Indian oceans in the Southern Hemisphere. Although it is rich in natural resources and has a lot of fertile land, more than one-third of Australia is desert. Most of Australia’s population live in the eastern and southern parts of the country and along the coastline. 

Natural History

Australia’s biodiversity is both rich and unique; between 7 and 10% of all species on Earth occur in Australia. The size of Australia means that it has a variety of different landscapes and climates – ranging from tropical rainforests to mountain ranges to desert. Native vegetation is a vital component of the nation’s biodiversity with about 85% of Australia’s plant species endemic to the continent. Australia also has a diverse and rich marine environment, surrounded by the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is separated from Asia by the Arafura and Timor seas. The Great Barrier Reef, which is the largest coral reef in the world, extends 2000 km down Australia’s North Eastern coast. Australian waters are inhabited by a variety of marine life, including sharks, whales and numerous species of fish.

The Plastics Issue

On average, Australians use 130 kg of plastic per person each year, of which only 9% is recycled. The government has implemented the National Waste Policy and existing activities to mitigate the impacts of marine debris alongside the Australian Packaging Covenant, where governments work alongside industry to reduce the environmental impacts of packaging. States/territory governments are also managing action locally. Queensland became the second Australian state to pass laws banning single use plastics including straws and cutlery in 2021. Victoria and Western Australia have also announced bans but have not yet put into law. On the Great Barrier Reef specifically, the government is taking action through The Reef 2050 Plan, which allocates funds towards community engagement in clean-up days.

“Australia has decided to take responsibility for its own waste and so we’re implementing bans on waste exports. Part of that means new investments in our recycling capability. Over the next five years, we’re looking to double our plastic recycling capacity.”

Representatives from Australia including Amanda Brigdale, Assistant Manager – Government Relations, Australian Institute of Marine Science and Heidi Tait, CEO Tangaroa Blue Foundation joined a discussion with the eXXpedition crew, providing an insight into the issues it faces in terms of environmental impact and waste management. Read the highlights below:

Challenges Discussed

  • Large marine territory that needs better management.
  • Microplastics in greywater is one of the single largest contributors of microplastic pollution. 
  • Limited funding for research into marine/environmental sciences. 
  • Lack of access to data. 
  • Inconsistent approach to plastic pollution management. 
  • Missing links to bring a sustainable supply chain together.

Solutions Discussed

  • Education campaigns to change consumer behaviour. 
  • Intervention at the source e.g. storm drains, microfibre filters in washing machines.
  • Work collaboratively with industry.
  • Incentivise improved packaging design.
  • State/Federal projects through the Standing Council on Environment and Water that address litter at its source, by reducing waste, increasing recycling and encouraging industry to take responsibility for their products. 
  • Federal Government is investing in the Recycling Modernisation Fund to support recycling at various stages, on the premise that it creates jobs.

Find out more about Virtual Voyage: Australia here.

More about SHiFT Hub Events

eXXpedition runs regular events for our community and beyond. Keep an eye on our social channels for updates on upcoming public events, and browse our blog to find out the highlights of our community events and keep up with eXXpedition news.

Thank you to 11th Hour Racing who are supporting this work.