While the Morrison government arranges photo opps to cheer on McDonalds’ renunciation of the plastic straw, there is nothing to celebrate in the fact that plastic recycling has fallen from 12 per cent to 9 per cent on its watch.
At the same time, a Morrison government-endorsed report issued by the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO), shows that just 18 per cent of plastic packaging used in Australia was recycled in 2018-19.
The remaining 3 million tonnes was dumped into landfill.
That equates to a loss of $520 million in valuable resources and a lost opportunity to create nearly 2,000 new recycling jobs.
After 8 years of inattention the Morrison government has hand-balled Australia’s packaging waste crisis to APCO, and dawdled when it comes to an urgent review of ineffective regulations.
With a commitment within the 2025 National Packaging Target to ensure that ‘70 per cent of Australia’s plastic packaging will be recycled or composted by 2025’ it’s hard to see how industry will reach this goal unless the Morrison Government moves away from its ‘hands off’ approach to progress and compliance.
To make matters worse, the Government’s National Plastics Plan – promised by the end of 2020 – is still nowhere to be seen.
We know packaging is only one part of the overall picture in relation to Australia’s growing waste crisis, but fugitive packaging is particularly harmful to our environment – especially coastal and marine species.
If waste policy was really one of the government’s ‘three critical’ environmental priorities, it would get serious about building a circular economy and a cleaner environment by:
Showing leadership on phasing-out difficult to recycle single-use plastics, ensuring consistency across the country;
Driving demand for recycled content through procurement in partnership with state & territory governments; and
Introducing a mandatory product stewardship scheme for plastics & packaging to the ensure that industry is accountable for achieving the 2025 APCO targets.
Last year, APCO told a Senate Inquiry that the regulations governing industry participation and enforcement are outdated and in need of an urgent multi-government review – a review the Government has inexplicably waited two and half years to start.