What’s the story?
The Australian government has launched its national plan to tackle the impact of plastic waste on the environment.
The National Plastics Plan 2021 outlines the actions everyone can take to reduce the effects of plastics on our environment, as well as key milestones the government is working towards to reduce Australia’s plastics problem.
It is, essentially, the action plan from Australia’s first National Plastics Summit, which took place in March 2020 and saw more than 200 leaders and experts from government, industry and community sectors identify and showcase new ideas and solutions. The Summit put the spotlight on just how much Aussies care about the issue of plastic waste.
The goals and actions outlined in the plan include:
- Reducing plastic waste and increasing recycling, with greater consistency for kerbside bin collections, including food and organic waste options.
- Stopping the export of unprocessed plastic waste and promoting product stewardship through the
Recycling and Waste Reduction Act 2020.
- Making Australia a global leader in plastic recycling and reprocessing by bringing in legislation to ensure it takes responsibility for its plastic waste, investing in increasing its recycling capacity and researching new recycling technologies.
- Reducing the amount of plastics impacting our environment, by phasing out the most problematic plastics and finding alternatives to the plastics we don’t need.
- Working to make Australian beaches and oceans free of plastic and ensuring 100% of all packaging in reusable, recyclable or compostable.
- Educating and supporting the community to recycle correctly, and bringing in new labelling guidelines to help consumers make informed decisions.
- Phasing in microplastic filters in washing machines.
Bye bye polystyrene
One of the first actions to come to fruition will be the phasing out of polystyrene consumer packaging fill and polystyrene food and beverage containers by the end of next year; an ambitious goal that is largely a voluntary approach for the industry, an approach which has previously worked in the phasing-out of microbeads in products.
Minister for the Environment, the Hon Sussan Ley MP, said:
“Australians consume 1 million tonnes of single use plastic each year and it is simply unsustainable. From plastic bottles to polystyrene packaging and plastic consumer goods, we are creating mountains of pain for the environment and wasting potential assets that can be used to make new products.
We are attacking the plastic problem on five key fronts, through: legislation, investment, industry targets, research and development, and community education. We want to work with companies, bring consumers with us and call out those companies which make false environmental claims about their products.”
Why is this planet-positive news
Australians use a LOT of plastic – 3.4 million tonnes of plastics in 2018-2019 alone. One million tonnes of Australia’s annual plastic consumption is single-use, with 84 per cent of plastic waste sent to landfill and only 13 per cent recycled.
Until now, the onus of responsibility for reducing consumption of single-use plastic has often been felt by the end user – the individual consumer. The National Plastics Plan appears to be a step towards shared responsibility for the state of our environment, calling on the government, industry and the community to play their part.
“Plastic has been a revolutionary material. It allows us to mass-produce lightweight products and packaging cheaply. But our current ‘take, make, dispose’ approach is leading to excessive landfill and harming our waterways. It is not sustainable.”
– National Plastics Plan summary
Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, 2021