In 1999 the plastic packaging recovery rate was 20%, in 2019 it was 16%. This is despite having a voluntary Packaging Covenant in place with the packaging industry. Australia has a Product Stewardship Scheme designed to reduce problem wastes. This, and the Packaging Covenant, have proved largely ineffective in dealing with plastic packaging.
The Australian Greens have introduced a Product Stewardship for Packaging Bill into the Australian Parliament that should be debated soon. A Senate Committee has been taking submissions from stakeholders, including from the Boomerang Alliance.
Our view is that this bill should be supported by all parties. The packaging industry and voluntary action has been given more than a reasonable opportunity to reduce plastic packaging waste and has failed. It is time to introduce stronger and more effective regulations.
Boomerang alliance has called for mandatory recovery targets to be set for plastic packaging, in line with the national goal of having all plastic packaging reusable, compostable or recyclable by 2025.
We have also called for honesty in labelling of packaging. Australia only has a nationally recognised recycling label (include symbol here). There are no nationally recognised labels for reusable or compostable products. Any labels, including the recycling label, that are used do not mean that products are reused, composted or recycled. They simply mean they could be.
It is essential that there are nationally-recognised labels for all packaging used that show whether a package is reusable, compostable or recyclable. We believe that if a manufacturer wants to use any of these labels then they need to demonstrate that the package has been designed so it can be easily recovered, that there are collection and processing facilities in place and that the recovered materials remain in the economy for their next use.
An effective Product Stewardship Scheme will ensure this happens.