Today marks 12 months since the Morrison-Joyce Government promised to modernise regulations aimed at improving Australia’s very poor performance when it comes to the recyclability of plastic packaging. True to form, nothing has happened.
On 16 October 2020, Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction Trevor Evans issued a media release announcing the off-track voluntary national packaging targets under the Australian Packaging Covenant (APCO) would be strengthened by accrediting the scheme.
This occurred at the same time the Government was persuading crossbenchers in the Senate to block sensible amendments to its own largely ‘hands off’ waste reforms.
The Assistant Minister went so far as to say that this accreditation was a ‘critical step in meeting Australia’s ambitions packaging targets by 2025’ and would give ‘greater transparency to the efforts of Australian packaging companies to significantly increase the amount of packaging’.
And here we are, 12 months later, with the ‘critical step’ of accreditation suspended in mid-air.
In May’s Senate Estimate hearings, departmental officials confirmed no such accreditation process had even commenced.
Despite pinning its environmental credentials on recycling, recycling of plastic packaging in Australia remains stagnant at 18 per cent, with recycled content making up barely four per cent of new packaging.
The presently not-all-that-ambitious target of achieving 20 per cent recycled content by 2025 is way off-track.
And without the pull-through demand created by an increased use of recycled content, the viability of recycling infrastructure is undermined.