The Plastic Lid Project, ‘Drowning in Plastic’


1 December 2017 saw the commencement of New South Wales government’s most ambitious environmental and litter reduction initiative in its history. 

The New South Wales Container Deposit Scheme (CDS), Return and Earn was a catalyst for environmental change and social activism across the community. Delivery of an accessible, convenient and consumer centric return point collection network, was the challenge provided to TOMRA Cleanaway as network operator of Return and Earn.

Through the return point network, citizens of New South Wales are able to gain 10c refunds on all the eligible drink containers they deliver for recycling. Annually, there are about 3 billion eligible drink containers sold in New South Wales, providing amble opportunity for citizens to get involved. 

In early 2018, TOMRA Cleanaway was approached by local student Naomi Saines (nee Kroll) whose inception idea was to create an artwork focused on the plastic epidemic in Australia. This meant Naomi and fellow volunteer students attended the TOMRA Cleanaway Eastern Creek central counting and sorting facility to collect approximately 15,000 plastic lids.

The Plastic Lid Project volunteers collect 15K lids!


The Challenge

The Plastic Lid Project required collection of thousands of plastic bottle lids to create a major artwork called ‘Drowning in Plastic’. The artwork, is a tangible illustration of the plastic waste epidemic in our oceans and encourages individuals to be more environmentally conscious and particularly more mindful of their plastic waste. TOMRA Cleanaway as the network operator for the NSW Container Deposit Scheme were engaged as a project partner to assist in collection of plastic bottle lids for the project.

The Solution

TOMRA Cleanaway worked with a select team of Western Sydney University students led by Naomi Saines, who volunteered with The Plastic Lid Project to access bottle lids at the Eastern Creek Facility. The students sorted through plastic bottles to collect lids for the project. Thousands of bottle lids were collected from the Eastern Creek facility to assist in creation of the major artwork. Collaboration between TOMRA Cleanaway and The Plastic Lid Project student team has resulted in delivery of the project within timeline and availability to showcase the project in the Western Sydney community and beyond.

The Results

Thousands of plastic bottle lids were collected to create an artwork called ‘Drowning in Plastic’ highlighting the issue of plastic waste. The artwork has toured across Australia extensively to shine a light on the opportunity to improve environmental outcomes through action. School children at events and engagement activities have participated in construction of their own insightful artwork making use of plastic lids. 

Naomi Sainers as the ‘Drowning in Plastic’ artwork is developed

The Future

The Plastic Lid Project is a community engagement activity designed to highlight the impact of plastic waste on the environment. The project culminated in the development of a unique piece of artwork called, ‘Drowning in Plastic’. The artwork has been utilised in a roadshow to be displayed in public spaces such as libraries, schools, galleries and beaches to continue educating the community on the impacts of plastic waste.

In the future, the Plastic Lid Project will create additional artworks through meaningful collaborations with schools, volunteers, and community organisations.


Naomi Saines with the completed artwork on show