ABC’s War on Waste has sparked major social and environmental change across Australia

Craig Reucassel with students in Kiama
image - ABC

The ABC’s War on Waste has sparked major social and environmental change across Australia, triggering more than 450 initiatives by schools, hospitals, businesses, governments and community groups to slash their waste footprint.

A report by the University of Technology Sydney’s Institute for Sustainable Futures and the ABC found many people who were inspired by the ABC television program to reduce waste at home went on to drive or demand similar changes across the public, private and community sectors – greatly amplifying the impact of the series.

The report identified 452 high-impact waste-reduction initiatives triggered by War on Waste , including:

Woolworths’ decision to remove plastic straws from its stores in Australia and New Zealand

The Western Australian Government’s banning of single-use plastic bags

A surge in cafes offering discounts to customers with reusable cups, preventing almost 61 million single-use cups from ending up in landfill

Schools introducing co-mingled recycling and e-waste collections

Hospitality businesses banning single-use plastic straws

Hospitals and clinics introducing recycling systems and replacing single-use plastics and polystyrene with reusable products

Almost half the 280 organisations in the report reduced waste in their operations, services or products based on ideas from War on Waste . Schools and universities introduced more than 200 initiatives, including e-waste collections and composting.

The snapshot of changes introduced over the six months after the broadcast of Series 2 of War on Waste in 2018 was only the “tip of the iceberg”, the report found, with the total number of waste-reduction initiatives likely to be much higher still.

Jenni Downes, Research Lead at the Institute for Sustainable Futures and report co-author, said:

“War on Waste has triggered systems-wide changes, driving high-impact waste-reduction initiatives, models and practices across Australia. The universal adoption of the ‘war on waste’ slogan demonstrates a new consciousness in communities everywhere and has raised expectations and demand for change.”

Teri Calder, ABC Impact Producer and report co-author, said:

“War on Waste has provided the foundations for policy change and driven widespread action to reduce Australia’s waste footprint. The biggest impact of the program has been in inspiring those with the power to make changes – in businesses, governments, education institutions and community organisations. The ABC is proud to have sparked a national conversation and inspired action to reduce our collective waste footprint.”

The report found that while many public education campaigns struggle to shift behaviours, viewers responded well to War on Waste’ s “motivating and uplifting” format, “solutions-focused” approach and stunts, such as an enormous footprint of plastic waste on Manly Beach in Sydney.

More than two-thirds of the 3.3 million viewers of the second series reported changes in waste behaviours, according to separate ABC audience data.

The War on Waste impact report is available here: