Media Release Plastic Pollution

Australia needs plastics laws after business fails to deliver

April 20, 2023
  • Australia recovered just 18% of plastic packaging last year
  • Australia will fail to meet 2025 target to recover 70% of plastic packaging
  • Investments in recycling have been outpaced by increased plastics use

The Australian Marine Conservation Society says Australia needs new laws on plastic packaging after it was revealed today that we recycle less than 20% of the plastic packaging we use.

Australia had set a national target to recover 70% of the plastic packaging by 2025, but a review by the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation shows that just 18% of plastic packaging was recycled or composted in the 2020-21 financial year. The review released today projects that plastic recycling rates are unlikely to exceed 46% by 2025 despite the $250 million the federal government has invested in recycling.

The report highlights insufficient action by business and a lack of enforcement as key barriers to progress. It found that only 48% of rigid plastic packaging has good recyclability. Recycled content also remained low, with just one per cent of flexible plastic packaging made from recycled content, while 11% of rigid PET and 3% of rigid HDPE and PP was made from recycled content.

AMCS Plastics Campaign Manager Shane Cucow said: “It’s clear as day that new plastics laws are needed to make these targets enforceable. Asking nicely has failed to get business to reduce their plastic packaging, and our turtles and seabirds are paying the price.

“Current projections indicate the plastic in our oceans will triple in the next 20 years unless we urgently reduce plastic consumption. Plastic production is outpacing our recycling capacity despite the Australian Government investing a quarter of a billion dollars in recycling.

“As long as there is no penalty for using unrecyclable and unsustainable packaging, sustainability conscious businesses will continue to be undermined by brands that choose to keep using plastic.

“We have good and ambitious targets to reduce plastic but they will continue to fail until they are mandatory and enforceable.

“Federal environment minister Tanya Plibersek has said that the government will regulate if business doesn’t act. It’s clear that time has arrived.

“We have the solutions. Australia should follow the lead of European nations which have taxed the use of virgin plastics and plastic packaging, levelling the playing field and making it economically desirable to use recycled content. After all, what’s the point of a recycling bin if nobody is buying recycled plastic?

“The failure of REDCycle has shown that we need to stop using unrecyclable plastics and provide effective incentives for businesses to purchase recycled content.”