After many years of pressure to stop the exports of collected waste materials to nations in Asia, the Commonwealth Government has passed a law stopping the practice. It was often the case that these discarded materials such as glass, used tyres and mixed plastics were simply being dumped or processed in extremely unsafe and dirty conditions.
The law will prohibit the exports of glass from 1 January 2021, mixed plastics from 1 July 2021 and used tyres from 1 December 2021. Other plastics and paper/cardboard will be banned in 2022. This is a universally welcomed measure by the Commonwealth.
A second part of the bill focuses on updating product stewardship laws. It should also deal with measures such as reducing single use plastic packaging. The problem is that once again the Commonwealth is endorsing targets to reduce plastics, and then leaving it to the packaging industry to achieve these voluntarily.
The packaging industry promised to reduce its plastic packaging and waste in 1999. For 21 years they have been making promises. According to the industry,* in 1999 the plastic packaging recycling rate was 20%, in 2018 it was 16%.
We think it's time that the agreed packaging targets were made mandatory.
National labelling for reusable, compostable or recyclable packaging should mean all packaging is eco-designed, efficiently collected and then recovered in practice everywhere in Australia.
*National Recycling and Recovery Survey (NRRS) 2014–15 for plastics packaging-APC
Australian Packaging Consumption & Resource Recovery Data 2019-APCO