Tackling our polystyrene problem with a new Riverkeeper roundtable series

, By Yarra

By Anthony Despotellis

Polystyrene litter in your river is a big dirty problem and we know fixing it requires more than litter traps and local rubbish cleanups. We need to tackle the problem at every step of polystyrene’s pathway — from industrial work sites to street gutters to river banks — and we need everyone on board.

So our Litter Officer Anthony Despotellis and Polystyrene Pollution Prevention Project Convenor Jess Rosien organised an important roundtable discussion on expanded polystyrene on 5 April in Melbourne. We aimed to bring together key river stakeholders and industry representatives to discuss the pathway of polystyrene from worksite to river and work out what we’re going to do about it.

“Eliminating expanded polystyrene pollution from waterways is best undertaken not by one authority or industry leader, but by a network of committed people who organise for collective action across many organisations.” Ross Colliver, Director at The Training and Development Group.

Our roundtable participants identified who can influence practice at each point in the polystyrene pathway, from the manufacture of expanded polystyrene to its use on construction sites and the disposal of waste expanded polystyrene.

We made a collective first call on strategies that might influence policies and practices and which organisations might contribute. Roundtable participants were introduced to a conversation-based inquiry process through which they can test for openings to change business-as-usual, and to find more people who want to be part of our work to eliminate expanded polystyrene pollution.

Our roundtable was an important first step in tackling this problem together, and we’re excited to be planning our next roundtable, which will go deeper into working out how we change established practices and create more connections between community, government agencies and industry. Stay tuned!

Polystyrene is a priority project for the Yarra Strategic Plan / Burndap Birrarung burndap umarkoo. This roundtable series is part of a polystyrene pollution prevention project funded by the Victorian Government.

Photo: Anthony Despotellis.