Report Plastic Pollution

Climate impacts of plastic consumption in Australia

by AMCS and WWF Australia July 10, 2023

Skyrocketing levels of plastic consumption are not just polluting our oceans, but also contributing to global warming, posing a significant threat to ecosystems and wildlife.

While the extent and impact of ocean plastic pollution in Australia is relatively well documented, the potential climate impacts of plastic production, consumption and waste management have barely been explored.

To investigate the link between plastics and climate change, the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) and WWF-Australia commissioned Blue Environment to model the greenhouse gas emissions resulting from plastics consumption in Australia, and the impact of different policy approaches to reduce plastic emissions.

This is the first research to investigate the hidden climate cost of Australia’s plastics addiction.


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Key findings

Our modelling found that in 2020:

  • Australia’s plastics use produced more than 16 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in 2020, taking into account emissions from production and waste management such as recycling or landfill.
  • This is equal to the emissions from around 5.7 million cars on the road every year.
  • If we continue on our current path, Australia’s plastic consumption and plastic-related emissions are expected to more than double by 2050



How Australia can reduce emissions from plastic

The good news is that by transitioning to a truly circular economy, Australia can reduce waste, pollution and plastic-related greenhouse gas emissions at the same time.

The solutions are clear. We need to:

  • use plastics more efficiently and cut total consumption by at least 10%,
  • rapidly increase plastic recovery and recycling,
  • fully power plastics production and recycling with renewable energy, and
  • move away from virgin fossil-fuel based plastic entirely.

These actions would reduce the total emissions of Australia’s plastic consumption by up to 70% by 2050, compared with a business-as-usual scenario.


You Can Help

Did you know that 1.84 billion single-use cups are used and discarded in Australia every year? Just by phasing out single-use coffee cups and switching to reusables we can help to reduce our plastic consumption.

Sign the petition to ban plastic-lined take-away coffee cups today.

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