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Australia’s National Plastics Plan 2021

The Australian Government has released its National Plastics Plan that was developed after the 2020 National Plastics Summit. The government is aiming to have 100% of packaging be reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.

Plastic bottle floating in ocean

May 13, 2021

by Laura Whiteman, senior regulatory specialist, Product Compliance division

In March 2021, Australia announced their ambitious National Plastic Plan. Sussan Ley MP, the Minister for the Environment, and Trevor Evans MP, the Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environmental Management, jointly announced the Australian government’s plan. It was developed after the National Plastics Summit in March 2020 at which over 200 industry, government and community leaders and experts discussed the issue. 

According to the National Waste Report 2020 prepared for the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (Australia), only 13% of the 3.5 million tons of plastic used in 2018 and 2019 were recycled. Australia also sends 84% of plastic waste to landfills each year. One million tons are single use plastics, and approximately 130,000 tons leak into the marine environment. At the World Economic Forum in 2016, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, with support from McKinsey & Co predicted the use of plastic across the world will double by 2040. Australia has already successfully phased out microbeads in rinse-off cosmetics, personal care and cleaning products and has put in place a road map of milestones in the National Plastics plan from 2021 through to 2030. The industry is aiming to have 100% of packaging be reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.

The industry should to be aware of the five main focus points for the plastics plan in Australia that will affect how products need to be designed. Companies must ensure they are working toward recyclable and sustainable plastics that meet these key areas to be successful in this region: 

Prevention – addressing plastics at the source

  1. Phase out problematic and unnecessary plastics
  2. Eliminate single use plastic from beaches
  3. Showcase sustainable designs via a plastics design summit 
  4. Shift by industry to easily recyclable plastics
  5. Establish national packaging targets

Recycling – taking responsibility for our plastics

  1. Introduce a waste export ban for unsorted mixed plastics from July 2021
  2. Boost recycling capacity
  3. Establish new plastics product stewardship schemes 
  4. Work towards a circular economy hub
  5. Develop regional solutions

Plastics in our daily lives

  1. Make better recycling information available to consumers
  2. Combat greenwashing
  3. Develop consistent curbside recycling
  4. Introduce the Recycle Mate app to help consumers determine which products can be recycled
  5. Unify container deposit schemes

Plastics in our oceans and waterways

  1. Remove ghost nets
  2. Reduce shipping waste
  3. Introduce microplastic fiber filters for washing machines
  4. Reduce cigarette butt litter
  5. eDevelop a national plastics pollution database

Research, innovation and data

  1. Develop a public-facing waste data visualization platform
  2. Initiate a plastics recycling survey
  3. Develop a circular economy roadmap
  4. Introduce a national environmental science program
  5. Encourage cooperative research centers to demonstrate innovative ways to reduce and recycle plastics

Recommended Action Items

  • Keep up to date with the initiatives and ensure that your products comply
  • Look for ways to reduce and recycle plastics in your work and everyday life

References

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