Joint Media Release: Environment funding to help Clean Up Australia tackle waste plastic in our waterways

1 March 2020

The Hon Sussan Ley MP, Minister for the Environment
Fiona Martin, Member for Reid

On the eve of the country’s first National Plastics Summit at Parliament House Canberra tomorrow the Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley has approved $300,000 over three years in funding for Clean Up Australia from the Environment Restoration Fund.

Minister Ley and the Member for Reid Fiona Martin joined the Chair of Clean Up Australia Pip Kiernan and Australian water polo Olympic squad members Aidan Roach and Blake Edwards at Sydney’s Rodd Point to highlight the rapidly growing problem of plastic pollution in our waterways.

“Clean Up Australia Day is one of this country’s most recognised examples of practical environmental action,” Minister Ley said.

“Eighty-three per cent of the plastics collected by Clean Up Australia campaigns are found in our waterways and coastal regions and soft plastic waste is growing in particular.

“We can all make a difference in our local environments and within the context of tomorrow’s national plastics summit, I will be making that clear to retailers and businesses along with state and territory governments.

“Our oceans and waterways face a frightening future if we do not find ways to increase plastic recycling and reduce waste.”

Morrison Government funding will support community and volunteer action to remove litter from beaches and waterways to reduce the flow of litter into the ocean.

Member for Reid Fiona Martin said that Rodd Point on Sydney’s Iron Cove was a reminder of the importance of protecting urban waterways.

“These are beautiful areas that contribute enormously to the local environment and we are engaging with the community to keep them healthy,” she said.

Clean Up Australia Day Chair Pip Kiernan said Australians should be incredibly proud that over the past 30 years, 17.7 million people have donated more than 35 million volunteer hours to remove rubbish from more than 185,000 sites across the country.

“Clean Up works with communities, business and government to change behaviour,” Ms Kiernan said.

“Funding from the Environment Restoration Fund is a reminder that in cleaning up the litter around us we are part of a bigger picture and that we can all make a difference if we step up and clean up.”

Projects under the Environment Restoration Fund focus on protecting threatened and migratory species and their habitat, protecting Australia’s coasts, oceans and waterways by addressing erosion, improving water quality and protecting coastal threatened and migratory species, and the clean-up, recovery and recycling of waste.


  • Plastics represent 31% of all rubbish reported by Clean Up volunteers across all locations.
  • 83% of reported plastics were found in our waterways [rivers + beach/coastal areas + dive sites].
  • ‘soft plastics’ as a category continues to rise. In 2019, 27,072 items or 30.1% of plastics, were within this category (nearly double the 2017 count).
  • Plastic bags represented 12.6% of plastic rubbish in 2019, with a count of 11,362 bags. Single-use retail bags represented 41.3% of bags – a disappointing 4.9% increase over 2018.
  • Non-food packaging accounted for 28.4% of plastics with a count of 25,604 reported items. In 2018, their count represented 14.8% or 16,951 items of rubbish surveyed.

National Plastics Summit

Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley will tomorrow convene the first National Plastics Summit bringing together industry leaders from across the plastics supply chain, academics, school children and all tiers of government. The Summit will open in the Great Hall at Parliament House at 9.00am on Monday 2 March. The Students Summit is being held at Old Parliament House.