Session Chairs: Sydney Harris; Samantha Sommer, Clean Water Action and Clean Water Fund

This session will review and share strategies, resources, tools, and challenges for developing successful upstream solutions to prevent ocean litter.

Rigorous data can form the basis for effective and measurable policies and practices to address plastic pollution and ocean litter. This session will bring together an interdisciplinary mix of professionals from the solid waste and materials management sector, ocean policy advocates, citizen and academic researchers, and experts in behavior change to discuss leading strategies in upstream waste prevention and best practices to stop marine debris at the source.

There is ample evidence showing single-use disposable food-ware items make up the bulk of land based ocean plastic litter. Those findings point toward source reduction policies and practices because recycling and composting programs not only cannot capture all of the items being used, but all single-use items, whether land-filled, recycled, composted, or littered, use a substantial amount of resources compared to the fewer amount of reusable items that can replace them. Representatives of ReThink Disposable and other organizations will share their experiences and case studies with the costs, benefits, difficulties, and accomplishments they have found in efforts to minimize unnecessary packaging designed for single use and replace disposable items with reusable items.




Plastic Free July – A case study in behaviour change best practice

presenting: Rebecca Prince-Ruiz (Plastic Free July Foundation, Australia); authors: Rebecca Prince-Ruiz (Plastic Free July Foundation, Australia)

Marine debris is an issue of growing public concern around the world. What’s often missing is the connection between concern about the marine debris problem and consumer behavior and choices. Plastic Free July is a campaign to nudge citizens into changing their consumer behaviour in favour of avoiding single-use plastics. It started in 2011 as a personal initiative developed in a local government waste education team in Perth, Western Australia. Plastic Free July rapidly grew to engage tens of thousands of people. The success of Plastic Free July was achieved on minimal budget and the viral spreading of the message via the internet and social media. In 2017 the West Australian Waste Authority funded Plastic Free July to research and develop a behaviour change toolkit and conduct an evaluation of campaign outcomes. Discover how the Plastic Free July challenge used behavioural insights to make a measurable difference in waste behaviours in a campaign which reached an estimated 2 million people from 159 countries in 2017.


Oregon’s Experience Moving Up the Hierarchy to Waste Prevention

presenting: Peter Spendelow (Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, United States); authors: Peter Spendelow (Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, United States), David Allaway (Oregon Department of Environmental Quality)

For more than 30 years, the US and many US states and local governments have adopted an “integrated waste management hierarchy” that prioritizes waste prevention and reuse above recycling and composting. But with few exceptions, the top of the hierarchy has been given little more than lip service. One exception is the US State of Oregon. Recognizing the limitations of recycling and the importance of prevention, Oregon has worked to move up the hierarchy and give greater emphasis to preventing waste at the source.

This presentation will introduce three discrete but related topics. First, we will explore the importance but also the limitations of recycling (with a focus on plastics), both from a marine debris and a broader environmental perspective. Second, we’ll contrast recycling with prevention and provide compelling evidence of the importance of prioritizing prevention. Third, we’ll summarize several actions the State of Oregon has taken to advance waste prevention more broadly. These include the development of strong statutory waste generation goals (distinct from recovery or landfill avoidance goals); reorienting a grants program to give greater priority to prevention-related projects; and recent legislation (SB 263, 2015) that adds new waste prevention and reuse requirements of larger counties and cities. We will also introduce Oregon’s 2050 Vision for Materials Management, which takes a life cycle approach to managing materials, including discards.


From the Land of Incubation and Innovation: California Plastics and Trash Reduction Policies

presenting: Miriam Gordon (Upstream Policy, United States); authors: Miriam Gordon (Upstream Policy, United States)

The California environmental community has helped usher in several plastics reductions policies in California to date, including over 150 plastic bag bans a state-wide ban on plastic bags, over 100 polystyrene foam container bans, a state-wide micro-bead ban for personal care products, and local bans on single use plastic water bottles in government facilities. But the majority of marine litter in California comes from food and beverage packaging and cigarette related litter. New policy initiatives at the state and local level in California are focused on addressing these key sources. From state legislation to eliminating the filter on cigarettes and polystyrene foam packaging, to local policies aimed at reducing food and beverage packaging, we will review what’s happening now in California and other policy initiatives flagged for the future and what some neighboring regions are doing to prevent waste at the source.


ReThink Disposable: Stop Waste Before it Starts

presenting: Samantha Sommer (Clean Water Action and Clean Water Fund, United States); authors: Samantha Sommer (Clean Water Action and Clean Water Fund, United States)

Clean Water Fund’s (CWF) ReThink Disposable program aims to inspire measurable behavior change in food businesses and institutional dining operations at the source. CWF California has a track record of reducing disposable food and beverage packaging, which according to our 2011 study, is a primary component of street litter in busy commercial districts (67%) impacting water quality. This upstream pollution prevention approach conserves resources, prevents waste and greenhouse gas emissions, saves businesses money, protects public health, reduces plastics that become litter and pollute local waterways and the ocean, and alleviates the burden placed on municipalities from managing all of this waste.

The program creates win-win opportunities for businesses and the environment by identifying money saving practices to reduce single-use packaging. By partnering with local government stormwater and zero waste agencies, Auditors work with participating businesses and institutions to voluntarily implement our Best Practices for source reduction. All packaging targeted for reduction is tracked and measured through an audit process where program impacts such as the quantity of disposable packaging eliminated, waste prevention, greenhouse gas reductions, payback period, and cost savings are calculated. To date, the program has engaged 125 food businesses and five institutions in California to eliminate over 15 million disposable items and preventing over 100 tons of waste each year. This session will discuss the barriers and opportunities to changing behavior in an industry where disposable packaging designed for single use application is ubiquitous. Case studies and business video testimonials will be highlighted. Learn more at


The success of waste campaigns and policies at reducing plastic waste into the marine environment

presenting: Kathryn Willis (University of Tasmania, Australia); authors: Kathryn Willis (University of Tasmania, Australia), Clementine Maureaud (Supagro University of Advanced Agricultural Agronomy and Rural Management), Chris Wilcox (CSIRO), Britta Denise Hardesty (CSIRO)

Plastic production is increasing globally and in turn we are seeing a rise of plastic waste lost into the coastal and marine environment. To combat this issue, there is an increase in policies that target specific types of plastic waste (such as microbeads and plastic shopping bags). Given that such anthropogenic waste have environmental impacts, reduce the tourism income of an area and result in human health issues, identifying effective abatement policies is imperative to reducing waste and litter before it enters the ocean. Within Australia, state and local governments employ a plethora of policies, campaigns and strategies to target abatement and reduce litter and waste inputs to the environment. We compared awareness-raising campaigns (such as ‘Don’t be a Tosser’, Clean Up Australia and Bin your Butts cigarette campaign) and state-enacted policies (e.g. Plastic Shopping Bag Ban, Zero Waste Strategy and Recycling Strategy) aimed at targeting human behaviour to reduce waste. Investments in campaigns led to larger reductions of waste in the environment than did investment in policies. Illegal dumping, litter prevention, recycling, education and Clean Up Australia programs all significantly reduced waste along a council’s coastline. Additionally, we found councils that invested in a coastal waste management budget had fewer littered or waste items on the coastline within their jurisdictions.