Griffith University and Plastic Oceans Australasia (POA) are collaborating on a new webinar series ‘No Time to Waste’.

The series brings together experts from industry, universities and government stakeholders to address the disruptive shifts in plastic use since COVID-19 began spreading.

Professor Sharyn Rundle-Thiele is the founding director of Social Marketing @ Griffith.

Professor Sharyn Rundle-Thiele from Social Marketing @ Griffith concedes the pandemic adds an extra layer of complexity, but she has also seen stakeholders challenge their own assumptions during webinar discussions.

“People are very open about what they can do to reduce plastic waste. But at the same time, you can’t recommend something that’s more expensive because of the pressures facing our economy.

“One of the joys of working in this challenging space is finding creative ways to address those problems, so we don’t lose momentum.”

Ricki Hersburgh is executive director of Plastic Oceans Australasia.

The idea for No Time to Waste came from POA Executive Director Ricki Hersburgh who was concerned the COVID-19 pandemic may have undone any momentum achieved in changing consumer behaviour.

“All the work spent in the past few years to change habits into the ‘norm’ like people taking reusable bags and keep cups when they go out, changed overnight when the pandemic was announced.”

She says the impact has been exponential, quoting staggering figures from the UK predicting 66,000 tonnes of waste will be produced alone from disposable face masks.

Social Marketing @ Griffith and POA joined forces to deliver the public awareness series after Professor Rundle-Thiele was invited to speak at the first event on behaviour change. The webinar series delivered through zoom has grown in popularity. Series 2 will begin in October.

Professor Rundle-Thiele said in some ways the worldwide lockdowns have greatly benefited conversations around sustainability.

“Skies cleared and there were dolphins in the waterways of Venice. Lockdowns across the planet made it impossible for people to deny the impact we have on the planet. It has been a great time to have these conversations.”

“We know that people’s willingness to support environmental changes is at an all-time high. People at all levels are willing to take part and do something.”

For Ms Hersburgh, whose family established the first plastic recycling business in Victoria, the pandemic’s effect on Australia’s plastic waste problem is alarming.

“Recycling is really our last line of defence to stop plastics ending up in our waterways and landfill.

“What people forget is you can only recycle a plastic product approximately three times, if you’re lucky, before the chemical structure becomes compromised and it ends up in landfill.”

“We really need to change and eliminate the use of unnecessary plastic in our lives.”

The No Time to Waste Webinar Series 2 begins 1 October 2020 with product stewardship and packaging the next topic. Industry experts from Amcor, the New Zealand Product Stewardship Council and the Australian Greens will be invited to speak. Past video recordings are available on YouTube.