New national waste targets, including the phasing out of “problematic and unnecessary” single-use plastic packaging sound right on cue with the current mood among voters and consumer. But key industry players and some state government leaders are wondering who will foot the bill? 

As well as phasing out of needless single-use plastic packaging items, such as takeaway coffee cups, federal minister for the environment Melissa Price on Wednesday announced an industry-led commitment to recycle or compost 70 per cent of Australia’s plastic packaging by 2025.

The industry is also aiming for all packaging to have 30 per cent average recycled content by 2025.

The new targets support the “interim” commitment made in April by Australian environment ministers to make 100 per cent of all packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025, or earlier.

To accompany the new national recycling targets, Ms Price and the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) also “officially” announced there would be a new voluntary standardised labelling scheme.

The Australasian Recycling Label was first introduced to the market in February.

Developed by Planet Ark, PREP Design and APCO, the new labels will reduce contamination in recycling streams by helping Australians decide which bin each waste item belongs in.

More than 50 businesses are now using this new recycling label on their packaging, with Australia Post, Blackmores, Nestlé, Officeworks, Unilever and Woolworths among the early adopters.

“There’s been a shift in public sentiment in recent years – I keep telling my parliamentary colleagues and the broader community that waste is now sexy,” Ms Price said.

“Not waste itself, but the ideology behind it: that small but significant changes in our lifestyles will have a profound impact on the world we leave for our children,” she said.

In April, Australia’s environment ministers agreed to bring forward an update to the 2009 National Waste Policy. The government recently released a discussion paper seeking public comment on six proposed waste targets.

Targets include reducing the total waste created by every Australian by 10 per cent by 2030.

Other targets include diverting 80 per cent of waste from landfill and halving the volume of organic waste being thrown out – both to be met by 2030.

The draft document also strives for 30 per cent average recycled content across all goods and infrastructure procurement by 2030.

The 2018 National Waste Policy will be released later in the year.

Waste Industry wants government funding 

Most stakeholders agree the targets are a welcome step in the right direction to solve Australia’s burgeoning waste crisis.

However, major Australasian manufacturer of rigid plastic packaging, Pact Group, wants to know who will pay for the transition to recycle and compostable packaging when research conducted by the company found that 50 per cent of consumers are unwilling to pay extra for environmentally friendly packaging.

“Who is going to step up and who is going to pay for these necessary changes in our industry?” Pact Group executive chairman Raphael Geminder said at the launch of national packaging targets in Melbourne, as reported by Fairfax Media.

Mr Geminder called on the government to provide financial incentives for companies diverting waste from landfill.

“I’d like to see a landfill levy credit, rewarding those who reduce their landfill with savings,” Mr Geminder said.

In response, Ms Price reportedly said it’s “too soon for us to talk” about tax incentives or funding as part of the 2018 National Waste Policy.

Environment ministers from the Labor states also want to see the federal government allocate funding to the cause.

Although supportive of the targets as a whole, Victorian environment minister Lily D’Ambrosio said meeting the targets would be difficult without funding and plans.

West Australian environment minister, Stephen Dawson, also agreed that the federal government should “put some money on the table so we can actually meet these targets.”

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  1. Great to see Fifth Estate covering these developments.

    On the topic of “Who is going to step up and who is going to pay for these necessary changes in our industry” – countries like the Netherlands appear to have come up with effective models for what they call Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes, where the cost of collection and recycling is built into the cost of a specific product. As a country that has an 81% recycling rate and national circular economy strategy, the Netherlands represents an excellent opportunity for Australia to learn how to solve some of these seemingly sticky questions like, “who will bear the cost of reducing our waste?”.

    In fact LGNSW hosted a waste and circular economy event yesterday, where Herman Huisman (Coordinator of International Projects at RWS Environment, the Dutch equivalent of the EPA), spoke at length about the success of Netherland’s EPR schemes, and other elements of their national waste strategy. I believe Herman is in Australia for a week, so maybe he’d be up for a Fifth Estate interview – hint, hint 😉

    1. This makes so much sense! Build the price of recycling into the original cost of the product. But that would be making manufacturers and other producers responsible for their externalities… and it would remove their rights to call on the taxpayers to pick up the bill. Like the coal and fossil fuel industry currently does. Not to mention the developers putting up shonky flammable cladding and expecting the buyers or public to pick up the cost of their cheatin’ ways.