National Plastics Plan – has the penny dropped?

4 March 2021

The highly anticipated National Plastics Plan – Australia’s first – is not just a step in the right direction, it is the furthest the federal government has ever gone in driving a closed loop supply chain, says the Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR).

The plan, released today, aims to fight plastic waste in a multi-pronged way, proposing wide-ranging initiatives such as plastic-free beaches, new labelling guidelines, eliminating expanded polystyrene consumer packaging fill and food and beverage containers, and greater consistency in kerbside bin collections.

“WMRR congratulates the federal government for its leadership in this significant issue – plastic waste. This is the first time the federal government has stepped into the material space and it is encouraging that they are leading conversations which are starting to shift towards focusing on production and design, both of which are absolutely key to creating a true circular economy,” WMRR CEO, Ms Gayle Sloan, said.

“This plan represents an opportunity for all Australian jurisdictions to work together on harmonised initiatives that will give Australia the best chance of working with the community to meet our national targets and aspirations, and there are interesting elements in the plan such as plastic-free beaches. The Australian community is one in its ambition to reduce the use of unnecessary plastics and having national cooperation and consistency will drive this agenda forward, ideally eliminating confusion. 

“The penny has certainly dropped in many areas and we look forward to continued engagement with the government on how all stakeholders – manufacturers, the waste and resource recovery industry, governments, consumers and more – can come to the table to create a true circular economy across all material streams and not just a successful closed loop model.

“These high-level actions announced today are positive and welcome, but this is just the start of the journey; the details that will help us meet our goals and targets will need to be ironed out and our essential industry looks forward to working with all levels of government and other supply chain stakeholders as we strive ahead in our quest to build a sustainable Australia,” Ms Sloan said.

WMRR congratulates the federal government on this plan and looks forward to its reformist agenda continuing for plastics and packaging, particularly with the current opportunity to review the used packaging NEPM.

"Ideally, the federal government will adopt a polluter-pays model for managing packaging materials, with stronger independent oversight and improved targets of recycled content in plastics, given the current 20% target for plastics is wholly inadequate,” Ms Sloan concluded.