Government Update

16 December 2020

Developments in research

Sustainable Communities and Waste Hub

On 10 December, Commonwealth Environment Minister Sussan Ley announced that a Sustainable Communities and Waste Hub will be established by a research consortium led by the University of New South Wales (UNSW). A total of $17 million in grant funding will be provided for the hub over the next 7 years under the Commonwealth Government’s National Environmental Science Program.

We are very excited that APCO is an industry partner in the consortium, meaning we will have input into the design and delivery of research projects that support achievement of the 2025 Targets. Focus areas of the Hub’s research that are important to our work include:

  • Targeted information and management tools to reduce the impact of plastic and other material on the environment
  • Innovative methods for reuse of materials, including proof of concept demonstration.
  • Baseline and ongoing recycling measures in the Australian economy
  • Socio-economic analysis to assist with waste reduction and increased use of recycled materials
  • Improved material sorting and re-processing.

The Hub will be led by UNSW’s Professor Veena Sahajwalla. Other participating research institutions are CSIRO, Swinburne University, Monash University, Curtin University and the University of Tasmania. Minister Ley’s announcement can be viewed here.

PhD scholarship on reusable packaging

The Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) is offering a PhD scholarship to undertake research investigating systems for reusable packaging in India to reduce single-use plastic packaging and drive a circular economy for plastics. The successful candidate will be based in Sydney and will have the opportunity to collaborate with an international team of experts from Australia and India.

The PhD project is part of the India-Australia Plastics Initiative, which is a three-year research collaboration between Indian and Australian research institutions, funded by the Australian Government. The overall research initiative aims to facilitate innovation in plastic supply chains and to build research and industry collaborations to drive a circular economy for plastics in India, considering strategies to avoid, reduce, redesign, reuse, and recycle plastics.

The first round application is due 31st January. More information is available here


Developments in government policy in the past couple of month includes passage of the Government’s Recycling and Waste Reduction Bill through the Commonwealth Parliament, introduction of single-use plastics legislation into the ACT Parliament, Western Australia’s plan to phase out single-use plastics, and funding announcements to support waste management, recycling and innovation by the Commonwealth, NSW and Victorian governments.


Recycling and Waste Reduction Bill

Following its introduction into the Commonwealth Parliament in August this year, the Government’s Recycling and Waste Reduction Bill has now been passed by both Houses and will become law once it receives royal assent from the Governor-General. The legislation gives effect to the waste export bans and replaces the Product Stewardship Act 2011.


The Bill was passed without any major amendments, but was the subject of an interesting debate in the Senate on 7 and 8 December, focusing on plastic packaging. The Senate came close to endorsing an amendment by the Greens that sought to make the 2025 National Packaging Targets mandatory. The vote on this amendment was tied at 30-30, meaning that the amendment was not accepted. The legislation is available here and the transcript of the Senate debate is available in the Senate Hansard of 7 and 8 December, available here.


Waste export ban

The Recycling and Waste Reduction Bill gives effect to the waste export bans. Commencement dates for the bans relevant to packaging are provided in the table below.

Banned material definition

Start date

Plastic Phase 1: mixed plastics that are not of a single resin/polymer type and/or further sorting, cleaning and processing is required before use in re manufacturing.

1 July 2021

Phase 2: single resin/polymer plastics that have not been re-processed (e.g. cleaned and baled PET bottles).
1 July 2022

Mixed and unsorted paper and cardboard.

1 July 2024

Unprocessed glass, in a whole or broken state. Both formed packaging and flat sheet glass.

1 January 2021

Product Stewardship

The Bill replaces the Product Stewardship Act 2011, with a small number of changes that reflect the outcomes of the review of the Product Stewardship Act.

  • Changes as a result of the review include:
    • Inclusion of product design in the objects of the Bill
    • Inclusion of recommended actions and timeframes and provision for consultation in relation to the Minister’s priority list
    • Opportunity to seek accreditation of voluntary arrangements at any time
    • Greater flexibility for the Department to manage the Product Stewardship Logo
    • Provision for the Minister to table information in Parliament about the performance and coverage of accredited voluntary arrangements
    • The application of compliance and enforcement provisions to the accrediting authority for voluntary arrangements, which will be an important accountability mechanism in the event that a central clearinghouse is established
    • Provisions for mandatory product stewardship rules in relation to product design and the durability and repairability of products.


ACT exposure draft legislation on single-use plastics

The ACT Government on 2 December introduced legislation into Parliament to ban certain single-use plastics, becoming the third jurisdiction to do so after South Australia and Queensland. The legislation is intended to ban, no sooner than 1 July 2021:

  • Single-use plastic cutlery and stirrers
  • Single-use EPS takeaway food and beverage containers.

The Bill also provides for non-compostable degradable plastic products to be banned by Regulation. The Government’s intention is to make Regulations banning these products, including oxo-degradable plastic products, in 2022. The Government has also flagged its intention to ban single-use plastic fruit and vegetable barrier bags and single-use plastic straws in 2022. Over the longer term, consideration will be given to banning plastic-lined coffee cups and lids, single-use plastic plates, cups and bowls and heavy-weight plastic bags.

The draft legislation also absorbs ACT’s ban on lightweight single-use plastic bags.

An exemption is provided for compostable bags (but not other items) under Australian Standards AS4736 or AS5810. EPS packaging (e.g. noodle cups) are exempt, and the ACT Government has indicated its intention that attached SUP cutlery attached to packaging (e.g. spoons in yoghurt containers) will also be exempt.


Western Australia’s Plan for Plastics

On 8 November, the Western Australian Government released a new plan to reduce single-use plastics, Western Australia’s Plan for Plastics (the plan). The plan outlines four core strategies to deliver a state-wide phase-out of a wide range of single-use plastic items. The four core strategies are:

  • Engagement and education.
  • Government leadership and regulation.
  • Stewardship and sustainability.
  • Research and innovation.

The plan notes that the WA Government will continue to work with APCO to address plastic packaging. The Government will also establish a “Plastic Free Places” trial to support the phase-out of plastic food service items and barrier/produce bags.

The plan sets out a timeframe for next steps including:

  • From 2020: Stakeholder engagement.
  • From 2021: “Plastic Free Places” program trial and development of education and behaviour change plans.
  • 2021 – 2023: First phase of regulation – phase-out of plastic plates, cutlery, stirrers, straws, thick plastic bags, polystyrene food containers and helium balloon releases.
  • 2024 – 2026: Second stage of regulation – phase-out of barrier/produce bags, polystyrene packaging, cotton buds with plastic shafts, microbeads, and oxo-degradable plastics.


Government funding announcements


In October, the Commonwealth Government announced a new set of National Manufacturing Priorities. Priorities relevant to packaging include Food and Beverage, Medical Products and, for the first time, Recycling and Clean Energy. The advantage of linking to the National Manufacturing Priorities is that it opens opportunities for grant funding.

In November, the Government opened Round 2 of the Manufacturing Modernisation Fund. This fund supports transformation in small and medium manufacturing businesses. It provides co-funded grants to transform manufacturing and to support job growth and a more highly skilled workforce. $50 million will be available for this grant opportunity from 2020-21 to 2022-23. Further information is available here.


On 17 November, the NSW Government announced that $240 million will be provided to support waste management and recycling over the next four years, including $96 million in 2020-21, for initiatives that accelerate the State’s transition to a circular economy, the 20-year Waste Strategy and Plastics Plan, and the continuation of the Waste Less, Recycle More program.


On 20 November, the Victorian Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio launched a $7 million Circular Economy Business Innovation Centre (CEBIC). CEBIC will bring together businesses, industry groups, research institutions and not-for-profit organisations to create solutions to reduce waste, increase recycling and reuse, and generate new revenue for Victorian businesses. It will work with a variety of businesses – from farms and cafes to factories and appliance shops – to streamline the way they operate, reduce waste, and improve efficiency. The centre will do research and offer expert advice and resources through a virtual hub, facilitate collaboration and events, and offer grants and support for businesses. Its first focus area will be reducing food and organic waste. Information is available at