A Plastic Free Australia


Is recycling just another form of greenwashing?

Plastics are made from fossil fuels and generate around 1.8 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions each year. In Australia, the government’s recycling targets are far from being met with only 13% of plastics being recycled each year. Even so, microplastics are shed throughout the lifecycle of plastic products and also during the recycling process.

It’s been reported that each person ingests about a credit card size in plastics each week. That’s roughly 5 g a week or an average of 100,000 g of microplastics every year. The implications of all this plastic on our health is a critical issue.

These are some of the topics we’ll cover in our plastics webinar. We’ll share ideas for reducing plastic use in your life. We’ll look at increasing momentum towards phasing out plastics and shifting the country towards recycling targets and a circular economy that will minimise plastic waste and lead to materials being recovered, reused, recycled and repurposed. Together with the audience, we’ll uncover whether recycling is just another form of greenwashing.


  • Rebecca Prince-Ruiz, Executive Director and Founder of the Plastic Free Foundation
  • Dr Deborah Lau, CSIRO’s Ending Plastic Waste Mission Lead
  • Dr Thava Palanisami, Environmental Plastics Innovation Cluster(EPIC), The University of Newcastle
  • Nina Gbor, Director of the Waste & Circular Economy Program at the Australia Institute


Rebecca Prince-Ruiz is the founder of Plastic Free July, a global movement that helps millions of people and organisations be part of the solution to plastic pollution. Rebecca is a change-maker, an experienced public speaker, TEDx speaker and sustainability professional who is motivated to care for people and planet. She is the co-author of Plastic Free: The Inspiring Story of a Global Environmental Movement and Why It Matters. In 2021 Rebecca was WA Australian of the Year Local Hero in 2021 and is a Churchill Fellow. Rebecca believes by changing our relationship with plastic and challenging our consumption together we can take action to end plastic waste and enjoy a healthy world.

With over 14 years of senior research management experience at CSIRO, Dr Deborah Lau has delivered impact across a diverse portfolio of projects developing materials and processes for energy and the environment. Deborah has been nationally awarded and internationally recognized for contribution to the field of cultural heritage and conservation science in Australia and has recently led the first global commercialisation of a novel polymer coating called MS3, now being used to protect the world’s most valuable paintings. She has long-standing expertise in developing hyperspectral and chemometric approaches to data analysis for an extensive range of complex material structures in order to accelerate materials discovery. She is now leading the Ending Plastic Waste Mission which is Australia’s catalyst for systematic change to tackle plastic pollution.

Dr Thava Palanisami is a team leader for the Environmental Plastics Innovation Cluster(EPIC), Global Innovative Centre for Advanced Nanomaterials, at the University of Newcastle.  He has over 20 years of experience in the risk assessment and remediation of emerging contaminants. Thava’s team conducts cutting-edge research on the risk assessment and remediation of legacy plastics in the various environmental matrices for better planetary health and sets the foundation for a better redesign. His centre, EPIC, houses state-of-the-art ISO-approved facilities to support the analysis of legacy plastics, compostable plastics and pilot scale treatment technologies. Thava has published more than 100 scientific papers, including more than 25 scientific papers on Environmental Plastics. Thava was an invited panellist at the Geneva Environment Network (UNEP) to present on Plastics and Health (Jan 2021), sharing the stage with Directors from WHO and UNEP. The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine(USA) has invited (Jan 2020) to lead a panel on plastics and human health research outcomes. Thava established a Global Environmental Plastics Research Alliance (GEPRA) in 2018, bringing together experts from 15 countries and satellite research hubs in India, Fiji and Africa. Thava advises various government organisations in Australia on plastic-related policy changes. End user-driven research remains the enduring strength of Thava’s research; his research on the impacts of plastics has influenced policy changes in several countries including the UN Plastics agreement.

Nina Gbor is the Director of the Waste & Circular Economy Program at the Australia Institute and founder of Eco Styles. She is a sustainability educator, speaker, consultant and eco stylist working with media, councils, organisations, community groups and schools to create a holistic and environmentally sustainable future in Australia with a focus on circular economy and systems change. Nina holds a Masters in International Development at University of Bristol, U.K. She designed and ran short courses in sustainable fashion & textiles at RMIT University in Melbourne and now guest lectures in ethical & sustainable fashion at universities and colleges in Australia and abroad. Nina has worked on a number of successful campaigns and projects around circularity and waste reduction. She is an impact consultant and guest contributor on ABC TV’s award-winning environmental tv show, War On Waste. Nina founded Clothes Swap & Style, a clothing exchange platform that teaches and works with councils and community groups to reduce fashion & textile waste to landfill in Australia by swapping.


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