Government Update

Subject: Single Use Problematic Unnecessary

23 April 2021

The review of the National Environment Protection (Used Packaging Materials) Measure 2011 (NEPM) and the Australian Packaging Covenant is continuing. Meanwhile, the Commonwealth Government has published the National Plastics Plan, which recognises the important role played by APCO and APCO Members in delivering action on plastics, including through the 2025 Targets, use of recycled content and the ARL. The Commonwealth has also published its Recycling and Clean Energy National Manufacturing Priority Roadmap and announced funding for recycling and clean energy manufacturing projects.


Legislative review: Used packaging NEPM and the Australian Packaging Covenant

The Commonwealth Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment is continuing the legislative review of the co-regulatory framework for packaging, on behalf of 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 has provided a written submission to the Department on the review. Please contact Peter Brisbane, APCO’s Government Partnership Manager, at if you would like to read APCO’s submission or if you have any queries or concerns about the review. The Government’s intention is that the review report and recommendations will be published in 2021. The terms of reference and consultation paper for the review are available here.


National Plastic Plan

The Commonwealth Government’s National Plastics Plan (the Plastics Plan) was released on 4 March 2021. This delivers on Action 5.5 of the National Waste Policy Action Plan, which committed the Government to putting in place a National Plastics Plan to increase recycling rates and reduce plastic pollution.

The Plastics Plan sets out a series of actions that will be taken across five areas. These are summarised in Table 1 below. APCO and its Members and partners will play a key role in the delivery of a number of these actions, including actions on the Australasian Recycling Label (ARL) the 2025 National Packaging Targets and the uptake of recycled content through commitments made under the APCO Member Pledge program.

In relation to the ARL, the Plastics Plan commits the Government to working with industry to ensure all APCO members with annual revenue greater than $500 million are using the ARL by the end of 2023, resulting in 80% of supermarket products displaying the ARL, including for recycled content. The Australian Government will also support uptake of the ARL by small to medium enterprises (SMEs).

Table 1: Summary of actions to be taken across the five key areas


·  Phase out Problematic and Unnecessary Plastics

Plastic Free Beaches

·  Plastics Design Summit

·  Industry Shift to Easily Recyclable Plastics

·  National Packaging Targets


·  Waste Export Ban

·  Turbo-charge Australia’s Recycling Capacity

·  Product Stewardship

·  Regional Solutions

·  National Packaging Targets

·  Used Packaging Materials NEPM

·  Australian Circular Economy Hub

· Material Performance Standards

·  Industry to Use More Recycled Plastics

·  Government Commitments to use Recycled Plastics


·   Better Recycling Information for Consumers

·  Combat ‘Greenwashing’

·  Consistent Kerbside Recycling Collection

·   Recycle Mate App

·   Consistent Container Deposit Schemes (CDS)


·   Global Action on Marine Plastic Pollution

·   Microplastics Fibre Filters for Washing Machines

·   Cigarette Butts

·   Stormwater

·   National Plastics Pollution Database

·   Ghost Nets

·   Operation Clean Sweep®

·   Marine Debris Threat Abatement Plan

·   Communities Environment Program

·   Environment Restoration Fund (ERF)

·   Indonesia Partnership

·   Pacific Ocean Litter Project

·   Shipping Waste


·  Waste Data Visualisation Platform

·  Cooperative Research Centres Projects Grants (CRC-P)

·  Australian Plastics Recycling Survey

· Circular Economy Roadmap

· National Environmental Science Program (NESP)

The Plastics Plan sets out a schedule for delivery of actions. A summary of the delivery deadlines relevant to plastic packaging is provided in Table 2 below.

Table 2: Delivery deadlines for Plastic Plan actions relevant to packaging


·  Regulate unsorted mixed plastic waste exports (July 2021)

·  Review of National Environment Protection (Used Packaging Materials) Measure 2011 and the Australian Packaging Covenant

·   National Plastics Design Summit


·  Regulate unprocessed single polymer or resin waste plastic exports (July 2022)

· Phase out non-compostable plastic packaging products containing additive fragmentable technology that do not meet relevant compostable standards (July 2022)

· Phase out expanded polystyrene (EPS) in loose fill and moulded consumer packaging (July 2022), and food and beverage containers (December 2022)

·  Phase out PVC packaging labels (December 2022)

·  Review progress of 2025 National Packaging Targets


·  At least 80% of supermarket products to display the Australasian Recycling Label (December 2023)


·  2025 National Packaging Targets achieved

Further information on the Plastics Plan can be found here.

Recycling and Clean Energy National Manufacturing Priority

 On 7 April, the Commonwealth Government released its Recycling and Clean Energy National Manufacturing Priority Roadmap and announced the opening of a grants round for Recycling and Clean Energy manufacturing projects under the Modern Manufacturing Initiative. Funding is available in two streams:

  • The Manufacturing Translation Stream provides businesses with funding to support projects that translate high quality research into commercial outcomes and support businesses to scale-up and be more competitive and resilient. It provides co-funding to support businesses to adopt new technologies and improve their manufacturing processes to boost productivity and competitiveness.
  • The Manufacturing Integration Stream supports projects that integrate Australian businesses into domestic and international value chains, propelling their goods and services into new markets. It provides co-funding to encourage linkages between local businesses and domestic and international firms, increasing scale, supply capacity, and the ability to innovate. It will also facilitate the adoption of product standards and greater sharing and transfer of knowledge.

Applications under both streams of the Recycling and Clean Energy priority close on 5 May 2021. More information is available here.