18 August 2021
The Commonwealth Environment Minister’s Priority List for 2021-22 under the Recycling and Waste Reduction Act 2020 (RAWR Act) has been published. The list includes several types of plastic packaging that APCO is currently working to address. Also at the national level, the RAWR Act’s ban on the export of mixed plastics has commenced, and the Government has announced a significant grant of funding to a consortium led by the University of Queensland for work on bioplastics. At state and territory level, policy and regulatory development on single-use plastics is continuing.
Minister’s Priority List under the RAWR Act
Commonwealth Environment Minister the Hon Sussan Ley MP has announced the list of priority items for 2021-22. The list is established under the RAWR Act and provides notice to industry about the Minister’s expectation that industry will develop product stewardship schemes to address the identified products. It includes actions that the minister recommends that industry take, and timeframes for completing the actions.
Two of the priorities address plastic packaging. The recommended actions and timeframes included in the Minister’s list, as well as information on the status of APCO’s work on these items, are provided in the table below.
Class of products
Plastic oil containers
|Industry should implement a product stewardship scheme for plastic oil containers.
· Initial scheme design finalised by June 2022.
· The scheme should be operational by June 2023.
June 2022–June 2023
APCO has received a grant under the National Product Stewardship Investment Fund to deliver a product stewardship scheme for oil containers.
|Problematic and unnecessary single use plastics
||Nationally coordinated industry phase-out in place for the following problematic and unnecessary single use plastics through elimination, redesign, replacement and innovation:
· expanded polystyrene (EPS) loose packaging fill and moulded single-use EPS packaging for consumer products by June 2022.
· packaging that is not certified compostable (including oxo-degradable, landfill-degradable or other claimed degradable plastics) by June 2022.
· EPS consumer food beverage service containers by December 2022.
· polyvinyl chloride (PVC) packaging labels by December 2022.
|APCO’s Action Plan for Problematic and Unnecessary
Single-Use Plastic Packaging was published in December 2020.
· EPS B2C loose fill and moulded packaging: APCO leading work to phase out (as noted in the June edition of Unpacked).
· Non-certified degradable packaging is being addressed through APCO’s Action Plan and state govt actions.
· EPS B2C food and beverage containers: APCO leading work to phase out (see below for more detail).
· PVC packaging labels: Being addressed through PREP and ARL program.
Commencement of ban on export of mixed plastics
The RAWR Act’s ban on the export of mixed plastics commenced on 1 July 2021. The ban applies to mixed plastics that are not of a single resin or polymer type or where further sorting, cleaning and/or processing is required before re-use. It is still possible to export plastics that have been either:
- Sorted into single resin or polymer type, or
- Processed with other materials into processed engineered fuel.
A second phase of the plastic waste export ban will commence on 1 July 2022. The second phase will apply to single resin or polymer plastics that have not been reprocessed, such as cleaned and baled PET bottles. From 1 July 2022 it will only be possible to export plastics that have been either:
- Sorted into single resin or polymer type and processed for further use (e.g. flakes or pellets), or
- Processed with other materials into processed engineered fuel.
A ban on the export of certain types of waste glass commenced on 1 January 2021, and a ban on the export of some paper and cardboard waste will commence in July 2024. More information on the waste export bans is available here.
Government funding for work on biopolymers
A proposal led by the University of Queensland to establish an Industry Transformation Training Centre (ITTC) on bioplastics and biocomposites has been successful, with the Commonwealth Government announcing grant funding for the ITTC of up to $1m per year for five years. The ITTC will fund the development of research and industry capability aiming to support the development of industries in Australia to engineer, manufacture, use and recycle three bioplastics: PHA, TPS and PLA.
APCO will participate in the ITTC as a Partner Investigator. This role will support the development of research projects aligned to our work and identifying opportunities for our Members and stakeholders to get involved in relevant projects.
State and territory policy development on single-use plastics
Both NSW and WA announced in June that they will be moving to develop regulatory bans on some single-use plastics in the near future. APCO is now working with governments and stakeholders in both jurisdictions as part of the working groups put in place to help inform the development of regulation. Information on the NSW and WA approaches is provided below. Other jurisdictions that have implemented or are developing regulatory bans on some single-use plastic items are:
- South Australia: Ban commenced on 1 March 2021. Information available here.
- ACT: Ban commenced on 1 July 2021. Information available here.
- Queensland: Ban commences on 1 September 2021. Information available here.
- Victoria: Intention to implement a ban was announced on 1 March 2021. Information available here.
NSW Plastic Action Plan
NSW has indicated its intention to develop new legislation to phase out some single-use plastic items, and to take other actions including establishing design standards and supporting APCO and its Members to achieve the 2025 National Packaging Targets.
Phase out period (from passage of legislation)
Single-use and problematic plastic items
Lightweight shopping bags
Expanded polystyrene food service items
Cotton buds with plastic sticks
Microbeads in rinse-off personal care and cosmetic products
Review in 3 years
Plastic bowls (including lids) and plates
Plastic cups (including lids)
Fruit stickers (non-compostable)
Heavyweight plastic shopping bags
The Plastic Action Plan also includes other actions relevant to plastic packaging and the achievement of the 2025 National Packaging Targets. These include:
- Design standards: The Plan commits the NSW Government to leading the nation in establishing a new legislative framework to set design standards to tackle harmful and problematic plastics. While the first design standard will address the phase out of microbeads in cosmetic and personal care items, future design standards could address items such as hard-to-recycle plastics that often end up in landfill, including in packaging, and consistent consumer labelling to inform the purchase and disposal of plastic items.
- Supporting the 2025 National Packaging Targets: The Plan commits the NSW Government to working closely with APCO to ensure achievement of the 2025 Targets. Importantly, it notes the importance of government action to ensure a level playing field so that APCO Members are not unfairly disadvantaged by ‘free riders’, i.e. those companies that are not participating in the c-regulatory framework to achieve the 2025 Targets. The Plan commits the NSW Government to reviewing progress towards the 2025 Targets in three years, and considering mandating targets or design standards if necessary to address any issues. The Plan places particular emphasis on the 70% recycling target for plastic packaging and the target of an average of 20% recycled content across all plastic packaging by 2025.
See here for more information on NSW’s Plastic Action Plan.
WA Plan for Plastics
WA’s Plan for Plastics has set an ambitious timeframe for the implementation of regulation for its first tranche of banned items, and for the scope and timeframe of its second tranche.
The Plan states that new regulations will be in place by the end of 2021 to deliver a state-wide phase-out of single-use plastic:
- Takeaway EPS food containers
- Thick plastic bags
- Plastic straws
- Helium balloon releases.
The Regulations will be amended in 2022 to deliver a state-wide phase-out of:
- Coffee cups/lids
- Polystyrene cups
- Cotton buds with plastic shafts
- Barrier/produce bags
- Polystyrene packaging
- Oxo-degradable plastics.
The Plan also lists complementary actions to be taken in relation to several other items:
- Prepacked fruit and vegetables: Targeted consultation commencing in 2021.
- Plastic beverage containers: Container Deposit Scheme implemented on 1 October 2020.
- Takeaway food and beverage containers: Targeted consultation commencing 2021; implement a Plastic Free Places program.
- Plastic packaging: Targeted consultation commencing in 2021; Encourage innovative actions to reduce plastic packaging; continue working with APCO to achieve the 2025 National Packaging Targets.
See here for information on WA’s Plan for Plastics.