Stronger Single-use Packaging Rules

A Boomerang Alliance Backgrounder.

Out of the 907,401 tonnes of plastic packaging consumed in 2017-18, only around 32% was recycled, with only 14% recycled in Australia.[1] As population grows plastic consumption will only increase, unless robust measures are put in place.

The Commonwealth and all state and territory jurisdictions have agreed that all packaging will be reusable, compostable or recyclable by 2025. The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) have a target of 70% of packaging actually composted or recycled by 2025.

So, in order to meet the 2025 targets, let’s take a look at the most influential element: the Australian packaging laws.

To have any chance of meeting this target packaging must be collected and then reused/composted or recycled. This means setting government rules to ensure performance. The most obvious way is to introduce a Product Stewardship Scheme for Packaging and have the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) deliver it. Any scheme targets need to be mandatory and enforceable.

The problem for packaging right now is that there are only voluntary arrangements for packaging manufacturers and suppliers to design their products for their post-consumer reuse. That means that most plastic packaging still ends up as waste or litter, principally because it is too difficult or too expensive to recover the used products.  However by ensuring a market for the material, it becomes economic to collect it.

Introducing stronger and mandatory rules for packaging will mean that excessive and unnecessary packaging will be eliminated, whilst designing reusable, compostable and recyclable packaging will be maximised. Enforceable targets for composting or recycling of packaging by 2025 will ensure packaging is actually reused, composted or recycled. Litter and waste will be minimised.

For example, in 1994, the EU introduced a Packaging Directive that set recycling targets for all packaged materials. This led to a reduction in the use of packaging materials that were not economically beneficial or technically possible to recycle and an increase in acceptable alternatives.

Today a product manufactured in or for the EU market often uses compostable packaging, whilst a product manufactured for Australia often uses polystyrene or non-compostable packaging. Many countries in Europe have banned the disposal of recyclables into landfills.

Boomerang Alliance has called for a Product Stewardship Scheme (or mandated government regulations) for packaging. This should require manufacturers to minimise packaging and any toxins, and design packaging for easy and affordable post-consumer reuse or recycling. There should be mandatory targets set to achieve the 2025 goals.

Boomerang Alliance considers avoiding/reducing excessive packaging as the most preferred option. Reusing, composting and then recycling as the next best options. We do not support the incineration of plastic packaging for energy recovery.


[1]  Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation, “Packaging Material Flow Analysis 2018, prepared by the Institute of Sustainable Futures