We are applying a range of solutions to identify where, when, how and why waste is lost to the environment.

Plastic pollution: a national baseline survey

It’s critical to understand the distribution of plastic in the environment, its impact on regional economies near sources, and the magnitude of this pollution.

plastic bottle on beach

This information will help the public, industry, and policy-makers and will help to identify low-cost, effective interventions to stem the tide of plastic pollution and help solve Australia’s waste crisis.

It will further enable us to evaluate policy effectiveness and change through on-ground activities at local, state and national scales.

We will be carrying out litter surveys to collect data at inland, riverine, coastal, and nearshore locations around the country. This will provide a national baseline snapshot of waste leakage (including hotspots) in the Australian environment, and underpin a long-term monitoring program to measure change.

Using Artificial Intelligence to monitor rubbish

Artificial Intelligence is helping us understand the extent of plastic pollution in Australia and globally, and how to stop it before it enters our waterways.

Working with Microsoft, we developed machine learning (ML) capabilities to identify plastic waste in our creeks and streams. Using ML enables us to collect, process, and analyse plastic pollution more quickly, accurately, and effectively.

We’ve been setting up camera sensor technologies on bridges and poles near rivers to track rubbish in our waterways. We’re applying this research here in Australia, in London and Bangladesh, and we’re rolling this out to other cities and countries around the world.

We can analyse the footage to detect and identify the rubbish that ends up in our waterways.

Knowing what sort of rubbish ends up in our environment will help inform waste management strategies. It highlights where we can intervene to stop plastic from entering our rivers and ending up in our oceans. More information can be found here and by reading our factsheet (pdf and word versions).

Smart sensors and Gross Pollutant Traps

We’re using sensor technologies to improve waste management on the front line. Stormwater drains and gross pollutant traps (GPTs) are used to prevent waste and sediments from flowing into the environment. But maintenance can be costly and time-consuming.

That’s why we’re developing an autonomous sensor network – to bring maintenance costs down, increase cost effectiveness, improve health and safety and stop waste from leaking to our waterways. The sensors and accompanying decision support system will provide near real-time reporting on how much rubbish is in stormwater traps. It will also help councils optimise their management actions, by telling them which traps are nearly full, so they can save time and increase efficiency.

Find out more by reading our factsheet (pdf and word versions).