'At least 8 million tonnes of plastic leak into the ocean every year. By 2025 the oceans will contain one tonne of plastic for every three tonnes of fish and by 2050 more plastic than fish' - Joint EM Foundation/World Economic Forum Report Davos 2016
Globally 95% of all plastic packaging is used once and then wasted, often as litter. In Australia we recycle 9% of plastic (with just 16% of plastic packaging recovered). The CSIRO reports that 'three-quarters of the marine debris found along our coastline is plastic, most from local sources.'
According to the latest CleanUp Australia Report (2019), plastic represents 31% of all litter collected. Plastic bag litter remains unacceptably high despite state (with the exception of NSW) and supermarkets bans. Heavyweight plastic bags are still available in all states and territories.
Virtually all of this discarded plastic does not decompose but, over time, ‘breaks up’ into ever smaller pieces (microplastics). The marine plastic problem is both about the plastic litter we can see and the plastic litter we can’t. It accumulates in the environment, year on year.
Australia needs to solve this problem, urgently. Over the next 24 months to 2022 we will be campaigning for governments to implement the legal and financial instruments to achieve a significant reduction in plastic pollution.
Source: Clean Up Australia Report, 2019
- To transition to a zero-waste society by leveraging strategic opportunities to drive best practice resource efficiency, recovery and recycling.
- To eliminate unnecessary and problematic single use plastics from use.
- To cut 70% of Australia’s contribution to plastic pollution entering the oceans (before 2025).
Our policies are designed to create the infrastructure and laws that make recycling and protection of the environment effective and easy for households and businesses. We believe regulatory mechanisms, including bans, new laws, including greater responsibility by the makers of products; and consumer action, are needed to eliminate both toxic practices and waste products from polluting our ecosystems.
Cash For Containers
Efficient and low cost Container Deposit Systems (CDS) involving a 10-cent refund and significant use of automated sorting machines, by individual states with national harmonisation. A CDS has been proven worldwide to maximise the recycling of drink containers and minimise litter.
The removal of plastic bag, foodware and bottles, microplastic and nurdle threats to the environment can only be achieved with comprehensive and rapid regulatory and industry action, including the introduction of bans and alternative products.
Asian markets are rightly rejecting our contaminated recyclate meaning we have a big problem that can only be solved by growing our own reprocessing industry. Otherwise our hard work to recycle will end up in landfill or incinerated. Our key targets are - recycled content rules for packaging and other products to create a demand that justifies investment in new facilities; financial incentives and support; and government/business procurement to buy recycled.
Policies for Action
Our aim is the introduction of legislation and financial supports to solve Australia's plastic pollution problems – creating a 'circular economy'. Action needs to be mainstream – not pilots and case studies that work at the edge of society and the economy. Read more about our Policies for Action.
Circular Economy/Zero Waste
We want all states to take action to massively reduce this wasteful dumping. Recently Asian countries have rejected our waste exports as being too contaminated for recycling and causing pollution. Australia will be banning such exports in coming years. We are campaigning for more investment in reuse and recycling in Australia, and to encourage corporate and government preference for recycled products. Mandatory product stewardship for packaging will be important - with redesign of packaging so it is recyclable and high targets for recycled content. Read more about our Circular Economy policy.
New laws and corporate supply chain practises are needed to stop the illegal stockpiling and dumping of waste tyres; prevent the export of whole tyres to developing nations (where their breakdown causes significant pollution); and improve domestic recycling for new products. Stringent emission controls could facilitate the use of some chipped tyres for domestic energy, to avoid ongoing stockpiling and dumping, and help clean up legacy dumps, but only after maximum recycling.
Waste to Energy (WTE)
WTE is the one-off production of energy by subjecting waste to high temperatures via various technologies. It is not recycling. There is no thermal process to capture the embodied energy value of mixed waste that will not create significant pollution and toxic releases. We also caution against the serious risk of long term WTE contracts cannabalising resources that should be recycled. We may consider, on a case by case basis, use of the small amount of residue from best practice and maximised recycling of single material types, but only that which can demonstrate toxic pollution risks have been eliminated by pre-testing of the material. Zero Waste NZ say it well in their 2.20 mins video on the left. We are seeing the same industry push in Australia.
Our research indicates that significant waste levies deter landfilling, and when also applied to waste to energy plants, make recycling more competitive by producing a key price signal. The receiver of the waste should carry the levy liability until it is genuinely recycled. The funds raised should be applied to recycling and environment protection programs.