While the Morrison-Joyce Government fails to provide national leadership to address the waste crisis, Australians should take every opportunity to support grass-roots campaigns and state/territory government programs that aim to eliminate harmful and unnecessary single-use plastics.
Keep Australia Beautiful Week – 16-22 August – this year highlights the problem of plastic waste and encourages us all to stop using single-use plastic items and take up sustainable alternatives.
The specific items vary, but most states have implemented deadlines between 2021 and 2023 for banning single-use plastic items like shopping bags, cutlery, plates and bowls, cotton-buds, straws, and polystyrene food and beverage containers. We know that up to half of all plastic on our coasts comes from packaging and single-use plastic.
Yet after three terms, three prime ministers, and five environment ministers, the Morrison-Joyce Government’s only significant reform is to ban the export of highly contaminated low-quality waste that other countries had already refused to accept. Unfortunately, we know that more mixed plastic is likely to go into landfill in Australia as a result.
The Morrison-Joyce Government has failed to deliver recycling infrastructure, failed to implement effective product stewardship measures, and failed to implement Commonwealth procurement targets, which were promised by December 2020.
The Government’s Recycling Modernisation Fund has so far disbursed only $4.5 million – or 2 per cent – of the $190m touted for waste reprocessing infrastructure. The Government’s $100 million Recycling Investment Fund, a repackaging of existing Clean Energy Finance Corporation loan funds, didn’t advance a single dollar for nearly two years, and only recently provided monies for a project that was already going ahead.
None of the new infrastructure facilities that have been agreed with the states and territories have been delivered. There have been no new co-regulatory product stewardship schemes. And the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO), a voluntary scheme, still hasn’t been accredited as promised. What’s worse, APCO is badly off-track in seeking to achieve several of its key 2025 targets like ensuring there is 20 per cent recycled material in plastic packaging – currently it is barely 4 per cent.
As it stands, global plastic production will double by 2040, with 8 million tonnes going into the ocean each year. Sadly, Australia barely recycles 10 per cent, with the rest going into landfill or our environment.
Until the Morrison-Joyce Government acknowledges that our waste crisis is a serious problem that needs serious national leadership and a properly framed and resourced solution, we will continue to see waste stockpiling while Australian innovation and jobs moves offshore.
If Scott Morrison wants the Australian people to take him seriously, he needs to deliver less packaging and more substance, fewer claims and more haste, in addressing Australia’s waste crisis.