Government Update

18 February 2021


APCO has welcomed the commencement of a review of the co-regulatory framework underpinning the Australian Packaging Covenant. The review is being led by the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment on behalf of the Commonwealth and all state and territory governments. Public consultation on the review has commenced and will close on 12 March 2021.


Legislative review: Used packaging NEPM and the Australian Packaging Covenant


The Commonwealth Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment is leading a legislative review of the co-regulatory framework for packaging, on behalf of all the Commonwealth and all state and territory governments. The review is a normal standard part of regulatory administration that occurs every five years. This review is covering both components of the co-regulatory framework, including the:

  • Australian Packaging Covenant
  • National Environment Protection (Used Packaging Materials) Measure 2011 (NEPM).

The aim of the review is to evaluate how well the NEPM and the Covenant are achieving their environmental protection goals. It will explore the strengths and limitations of the operation of the NEPM and the Covenant, the appropriateness of the goals of the NEPM and the Covenant and views on the achievement of these to date, and opportunities to improve the NEPM and the Covenant to achieve better outcomes for used packaging.

APCO welcomes the NEPM review process. Periodic reviews are a critical element of good governance practice and this review provides the perfect opportunity for APCO Members and stakeholders to reflect on the important factors for their sector and have their voice heard on our way forward in the context of achieving the 2025 National Packaging Targets (the 2025 Targets). 

APCO is developing a submission to the Department on the review. Some of these issues we will address in our submission, covering both the strengths of the current system and areas where we think it could be improved, are detailed below.


Why the current system is working well and should be continued.

  • As we enter what is the first comprehensive review of the system since 2010, it is important to recognise the current system is working well.
  • Since 2017, APCO has worked with the Australian supply chain to build a new and holistic product stewardship model that creates shared value for businesses, stakeholders and the environment.
  • APCO’s independent approach to product stewardship is about more than just end-of-life collection and recycling. In order to successfully transition to a circular economy for packaging in Australia, APCO’s approach addresses the holistic system (end-to-end) from design to remanufacture.
  • APCO’s collective impact approach drives action and accountability across the whole supply chain.
  • Australia is on track to achieve the 2025 Targets:
    • The most recent data, for 2018-19, shows an improvement against the Targets for packaging recyclability, plastics recycling and inclusion of recycled content in packaging, compared to 2017-18.
    • We are also seeing increasing evidence that APCO Members are making changes to packaging design to make it more easily recyclable and to phase out problematic materials and formats.
  • APCO’s role as the single administrator is vital. As an independent, not-for-profit administrator, APCO is able to:
    • Ensure cohesive supply chain engagement and effective accountability to governments, including the states and territories as well as the Commonwealth.
    • Drive the vital strategic work, such as material flow analysis and measuring and reporting progress against the 2025 Targets.
    • Deliver accountability across the whole supply chain. The current single administrator role is vital in ensuring cohesive supply chain management and providing a central gatekeeper for government activity.


What needs to change to make the system more effective?

  • The current compliance and enforcement process, with its reliance on state and territory governments, needs to change.
  • The framework needs to address free riders and enable APCO flexibility in the way it engages with businesses.
  • To be effective, regulation on this issue must address large and SME (Small and Medium Enterprises) organisations separately, with a prescribed pathway for each that reflects their environmental impact on the marketplace.
  • Appropriate enforcement protocols for non-compliant, liable parties should be implemented and deployed by all State and Territory governments.
  • The 2025 Targets and the 2030 SDG 12 goals should be embedded in the regulation as the overarching metrics to support the circular economic transition for packaging in Australia.
  • The alternative model implemented by APCO in 2019 should be embedded to address exemptions and the varying levels of packaging impact that organisations may have.
  • The Australasian Recycling Label Program is fundamental to delivering positive environmental outcomes for packaging in Australia and should be required to be on every packaging format either manufactured or imported into Australia.

How to have your say.

The Department released a consultation paper to inform the review on 5 February. Stakeholder input is invited through an online survey and through written submissions. The deadline for submission is 12 March 2021. The Government’s intention is that the final report will be published in 2021. More information on the review, including the terms of reference and information on how to make a submission, is available here. Please do not hesitate to contact Peter Brisbane, APCO’s Government Partnership Manager, at if you have any queries or concerns about the review.