4 Mar 2021


Australia’s support for a new global agreement to address marine plastic pollution is a breakthrough, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature-Australia.

The Federal Government today released its National Plastics Plan containing 38 actions to tackle plastic pollution and increase plastic recycling in Australia.

These include a requirement that every new washing machine be fitted with a microfibre filter, action on cigarette butt litter, the banning of polystyrene packaging and foodware and support for a global agreement to tackle marine plastic pollution.

“Today, the Australian Government stood up for our oceans and joined the growing international community recognising the global threat plastic poses to the natural world,” said WWF-Australia No Plastics in Nature Policy Manager Katinka Day.

A WWF petition calling for a global agreement to tackle plastic pollution has gained more than two million signatures – the largest response ever for a WWF worldwide petition.

“It’s fantastic to see the Government recognise that plastic pollution is a global, transboundary problem which cannot be solved through national or regional initiatives alone,” Ms Day said.

“Australia now joins 68 countries which have expressed strong support for a global agreement, as well as nearly 50 corporations.”

Ms Day said other actions in the National Plastics Plan were also a big step forward.

“The Federal Government’s requirement for microfibre filters on new washing machines is a significant pollution busting measure."

“A single wash of a common laundry load of polyester clothing may release up to 6,000,000 microfibres. They are being ingested by marine life everywhere with a fibre even found inside a new species of crustacean (Eurythenes plasticus) discovered nearly seven kilometres below the ocean surface."

MicroCT scan of Eurythenes plasticus, a new species of amphipod found living nearly 7 kilometres below sea level that has ingested plastic.
© WWF-Germany

“Washing machine filters can stop this pollution at the source, and prevent huge amounts of micro-plastics from entering our ocean.”

Cigarette butts were also identified for action via a commitment for a product stewardship taskforce to reduce cigarette butt litter in Australia.

“Cigarette butts are consistently the most littered item in Australia. Of the 24 billion cigarettes smoked each year, a staggering 8 billion end up as litter,” Ms Day said.

“Making tobacco companies responsible for the waste their product creates is the right thing to do and we’re incredibly pleased the Government is acting on this issue.”

“While WWF-Australia commends action on microfibres and cigarette butts, we are disappointed the Government’s plan does not mandate Australia’s packaging targets."

“While the Plan will review progress of the 2025 packaging targets in 2022, this is not enough to keep pressure on industry. Only mandatory targets will ensure these packaging commitments are actually met.”

The Plastic Plan follows a WWF survey which found that 80% of surveyed food products feature packaging that cannot be put into home recycling bins.

“We still need stronger rules to stop unnecessary plastic packaging and ensure that packaging is recyclable and is actually recycled.”

“To tackle our plastic crisis, we cannot leave it to industry alone. We need our governments to take the lead,” Ms Day said.