Session 3 – Knowledge and data system initiatives abstracts

Session 3.1 Social and behavioural enablers to ending plastic waste

Andrea Walton – CSIRO
Enabling social and behavioural change

Reducing plastic waste and shifting towards a circular approach to consumption of plastic requires a range of new consumer behaviours and social licence considerations. This presentation overviews the behavioural changes and social enablers needed to support this shift. This overview provides a preamble and introduction to the session’s subsequent science presentations.

Murni Po – CSIRO

Understanding household plastic waste behaviour in India through the lens of social practice theory

Pollution from plastic packaging waste is a critical environmental issue faced by many countries.  Plastic packaging is used widely by households in their everyday activities inside and outside the home and is a major contributor to plastic waste in India.  This study sought to inform the development of policies and programs that encourage the purchasing of products with environmentally friendly packaging and minimising packaging waste. We did this through exploring the factors that influence household practices around plastic packaging purchasing decisions – both minimising of packaging consumption and making environmentally friendly choices.  We combined social practice theory with additional psychological constructs to understand routinised plastic packaging practices at household level.  An online survey was administered to 558 households living in three cities in India: Agra, Hardiwar and Panjim.  The study identified several factors that significantly contributed to household practices that would reduce the use of plastic packaging: these include ease of access to products with environmentally friendly packaging, their affordability and knowing how to purchase them.  Other findings will also be discussed.

Sorada Tapsuwan – CSIRO
Circular economy in India: A Bayesian belief network analysis of household purchasing and disposal behaviour of plastics

Annually, India generates about 62 Mt municipal solid waste.​ Plastic waste represents 8% of the total waste generation in India.​ The packaging sector is a key consumer of plastic goods, around 43& of all plastic goods. Although plastic waste consumption in India (11kg) is low relative to the global average (28kg), the Indian economy is growing, and with this, a growing trend in plastic consumption and disposal of plastic waste. The concept of circular economy is based on three key principles: 1) elimination of waste and pollution, 2) circulate produces and materials, and 3) regenerate nature. By applying circular economy, India will be able to decouple its growing economic activity from the consumption of finite resources that are being extracted to produce plastics. The objective of this research paper is to understand 1) What are the responsible disposal behaviour of plastic waste that people are practicing?​, 2) What are households doing to reduce their consumption of plastic packaging?​, and 3) What are the factors that affect household behaviour, including internal and external factors? To answer these questions, we applied a Bayesian Belief Network (BBN) analysis to examine two types of household behaviour: 1) purchasing behaviour of products with plastic packaging and 2) disposal behaviour of plastic waste. We used a theoretical framework called Social Practice Theory (SPT) to understand behaviours, social practices, and factors contributing to barriers and success of a desirable behaviour. Social practice refers to the everyday routine activities that comprise day to day living and formed through three interconnected elements: materials, competencies, and meanings. ​Material refers to the technologies, tools, infrastructure, or material objects used in performing the practice. Competence refers to the skills or knowledge needed to carry out the practice. Meaning refers to the values, social norms, attitudes, feelings, and symbolic meanings associated with the practice. Specifically, around meaning, we applied the concept of psychological distancing to explain how perceived physical and temporal distance from a problem could influence household behaviour. Preliminary findings from the survey and the BBN analysis suggest that households are highly educated in India, with a large proportion of respondents having at least a bachelor’s degree. However, the BBN revealed that an increase in the level of education for the rest of the population does not help reduce plastic waste going to landfills. A more effective solution to reducing plastic waste is for households to overcome the perceived physical and temporal distance of plastic waste problems in India, as there are still some who do not believe that environmental problems from plastic waste will affect them.

Rod McCrea – CSIRO
Early prediction of social issues with emerging technologies – Advanced recycling of plastics

Australia needs recycling innovation to address its growing plastic waste management challenge, with most mixed plastic waste at risk of being sent to landfill due to changes in our export laws. Advanced recycling (AR) technologies can recover these plastics, but industry needs to address community concerns for these technologies to be adopted. This presentation explores a new technique for identifying and analysing emerging public narratives regarding the advanced recycling technologies for plastic waste. Using natural language processing software and AI, the aim is to anticipate emerging trends in public attitudes towards new technologies to facilitate early and informed two-way community engagement that can deliver outcomes which are socially responsible and acceptable, and in this way support the deployment and scaling up of new technologies.

Session 3.2 Plastic reduction, reuse and recycling in managed waste: empowering supply chain data  

Gavin Walker – CSIRO
Data flows and feedback loops

Over 85% of Australia’s managed plastic waste ends up in landfill according to the latest national waste report. Recycling operations are barely scratching the surface of the problem. To effectively improve waste utilisation we need to increase supply and match that with an increase in demand. But are the two lined up? Is the supply side provide materials, for processes that exist to produce materials in demand? Markets would normally solve these issues by providing opportunities for supply and demand specifications to be publicised and the two ends realigned until a match is made. Unfortunately, in competition with virgin materials with well establish quality and quantity specification, the recycled waste system is underdeveloped. Categorisation of Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) and Risk metrics are needed to reduce the transaction cost of considering these requirements. New information systems to capture and categorise these metrics are need and new sensors and actuators are need to verify and sort materials into appropriate categories.

Wei Ni – CSIRO
Smart Bin: Engaging the Consumer and the Producer

Engaging the consumer and the producer is crucial in addressing the plastic waste issue caused by consumer markets. To recycle plastic, accurate sorting and separation is essential, which can be challenging due to the wide range of plastic resins used. Accurate sorting is crucial for producing high-quality recycled material, and contamination of different types of plastic can cause serious processing problems. Our innovative solutions not only sort metal, glass, and plastic bottles but also classify plastic bottles into different types, such as PET and HDPE, using IoT, sensing, robotics, and AI. Our solutions engage the consumer and the producer by allowing users to visualize and share their recycling status and be rewarded for their efforts based on the materials they recycle. By bringing recycling processing closer to consumers, we can raise awareness and encourage more recycling activities, which helps improve recycling rates and reduce landfill waste.

Dilum Bandara – CSIRO
Material insight: privacy-preserving supply chain propagation

This talk presents two design options for preserving business confidentiality in supply chain data propagation, focusing on a use case that demonstrates the recycle percentage of a product. We discuss the benefits of leveraging blockchain technology to enhance transparency and accountability of the use case. However, we also acknowledge the potential business confidentiality concerns that come with heightened transparency of certain supply chain data on a blockchain. To address this issue, we present two design options. The first design segregates supply chain data into pair-wise ledgers, enhancing confidentiality while still allowing for the calculation of recycle percentages and mass-balance checks. The second design leverages homomorphic encryption to store encrypted, sensitive data on a single ledger. The same calculations can then be performed on encrypted data while ensuring confidentiality. We conclude the talk with a discussion of potential caveats and the generalisation of the designs to conventional technologies.

Conggai Li – CSIRO
Supply chain analytics: keeping it private and safe

Supply chain can be used to estimate the recycling rate of one product by tracing its production procedure. However, this traceability can expose the business confidentially. How to protect privacy and confidentiality is a scientific question. Supply chain network refers to a network structure formed by some autonomous or semiautonomous business entities to produce a certain product through relevant upstream and downstream business relationships. Under the main manufacturer-suppliers collaborative development model, the supplier and the main manufacturer sign a contract to bear development risks together, share product profits, and form a strategic partnership with products as the link. By protecting core business and profit, the suppliers and manufacturers keep their business confidentially and data safe. Graph is excellent tool to model this kind of relationship and can be used to find the core business relationships. By analysing the generated graph data, the business confidentially and data can be protected properly.

Session 3.3 Applying knowledge to identify solutions to end plastic waste

Andreas Volentras – Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) 

A Pacific Ocean Litter Project View on plastics challenges in the Pacific Islands region and the key role of knowledge to inform decision making 

[abstract pending]

Denise Hardesty – CSIRO

Measuring and monitoring waste leakage to identify and support appropriate interventions and solutions in Australia and beyond. 

This speed talk will highlight some of the work being undertaken in Australia and the region to establish consistent data collection efforts, build capacity, and to apply information to socially, culturally, economically and environmentally appropriate place-based solutions. The talk will touch on a national data portal CSIRO and stakeholders around the country are collaborating on and baseline monitoring efforts in Australia and elsewhere. I will also highlight risk analysis work being undertaken to estimate the risk of ingestion and entanglement on key marine taxa and the role of legislation and social factors in reducing plastic losses to the environment.

Justine Barrett – CSIRO  

New Technologies for Ending Plastic WasteGross pollutant trap sensor project

 The main pathway for litter getting into Australia’s waterways and oceans is by being carried along with rainfall through stormwater systems. Gross pollutant traps (GPTs), aka underground rubbish bins, are installed to capture litter before it reaches natural waterways. However, GPTs are often left full, deeming them ineffective. Reasons for this generally link to cost and the basic out-of-sight, out-of-mind principle. To help overcome this, CSIRO is developing GPT smart sensing devices that monitor the fullness of each trap and alert management when they need to be emptied. Additionally, CSIRO is developing an artificial intelligence method for detecting litter items in waterways with image-recognition machine learning (ML) models. By deploying these two emerging technologies, we can then estimate the amount of litter being lost to the ocean via our waterways. This will help highlight litter hotspots and ultimately reduce litter lost to Australia’s waterways and surrounding oceans.

Brad Dalrymple – Ocean Protect
Protecting our oceans from (and with) plastic waste

Approximately 80% of plastic pollution in our ocean comes from land-based sources, with the vast majority flowing through drains to our waterways and oceans via stormwater runoff. Urban stormwater runoff often also contains harmful levels of other less visible (but extremely damaging) pollutants and is recognised as the key source of pollution in our urban waterways. The impact of stormwater runoff within Australia is due to a combination of factors, including high pollution generation rates in urban areas, the vast majority of urban areas having no stormwater treatment assets, and (where stormwater treatment assets are integrated) these assets receive minimal (and often zero) maintenance (e.g. to remove accumulated material).

This presentation will also feature the official launch of the new ‘OceanGuard’ a technology –  a gully pit insert/ basket that can be installed within new and existing stormwater pits to capture pollution, and which is now made with 90% waste plastic.

Session 3.4 Leveraging standards and best practices to reduce plastic waste

Qamar Schuyler – CSIRO
Best practices and standards to reduce plastic waste: current landscape and future directions

As Australia moves towards a more circular plastic economy, best practice guidelines and standards will be critical to enable rapid change. These tools will assist industry, government, and individuals in attempts to reduce plastic waste. But how is Australia positioned in the development of these important support mechanisms? This overview will provide a global context and set the scene for the panel presentations that follow. The session will culminate with a robust discussion designed to elicit input from the plastic community on critical future directions and priorities.

Peter Bury – Chemistry Australia
The role of standards for a strong circular economy

[abstract pending]

Stephanie Groves – Standards Australia
Plastic waste: the role of standards and current landscape

Standards play a crucial role in facilitating the transition to a circular economy by establishing common definitions, measurements, and guidelines for industry, government, and consumers. In the context of plastics, standards can address issues such as traceability, provide guidance on recovery and recycling, outline test methods for biodegradability, and measure the environmental footprint of biobased plastics. A review of key national and international committees reveals Australia’s absence from the international plastic standards landscape, highlighting the opportunity for Australian experts to shape the development of international publications. This presentation emphasises the role of standards as a tool to combat plastic waste and looks at next steps to bolster Australia’s active participation in global standards development.

Helen Millicer – GAICD, Churchill Fellow, Director One Planet Consulting

Australia becoming a global super-circular economy

Better use of certifications and standards will help Australia become a Circular Economy leader. Currently Australia has a ‘go low and go slow’ approach to using labels, certifications and applying environmental standards in its procurement and industry strategies. As plastics production has a high resource and GHG emission impact, Australia is facing real risks and challenges in continuing its current linear and high emissions and high plastics consumption levels. Despite Australia’s need to implement a more circular plastics economy, Australia’s incentives and approach remain around linear, Business as Usual systems that incentivise and prioritise high consumption and easy disposal. A key way forward is to use existing industry and government backed standards and certifications far better. We can adopt similar tactics to those used in European nations. In this presentation I set out the steps Australia needs to take, as set out in our national report, Enabling Design for Environmental Good, published in March by the Australian Government. The ten recommendations set out the steps to increase uptake of circular products and phase out non-repairable and non-recyclable products, including aligning with global best product labels, certifications and processes.