GOVERNMENT UPDATE

10 December 2021


NSW Plastics and Circular Economy Act 2021

The NSW Parliament passed the Plastics and Circular Economy Act 2021 in November 2021. The new Act establishes a ban on certain single-use plastics in NSW, including:

  • From June 2022: Lightweight plastic bags (excluding barrier bags) from June 2022
  • From November 2022: Expanded polystyrene food service items, and plastic straws, stirrers and cutlery.

The Act provides a temporary exemption from the bans for integrated packaging. Integrated packaging is defined in the Act to include items such as sealed EPS noodle cups, spoons sealed in yoghurt cups and straws sealed in juice boxes. Importantly, this exemption will expire on 1 January 2025, meaning these items will be banned from that date.

The NSW Government has indicated that future consideration will be given to banning plastic bowls (including lids) and plates, cups (including lids), oxo-degradable plastics, fruit stickers (non-compostable), heavyweight plastic shopping bags, and barrier/produce bags.


In addition to bans on specific items, the Act provides for the establishment of design standards. The first design standard established under the Act prohibits plastic microbeads in certain personal care products. The NSW Government’s Plastics Action Plan indicates that future design standards could address items such as hard-to-recycle plastics, including those in packaging, that often end up in landfill, and consistent consumer labelling to inform the purchase and disposal of plastic items.


Part 3 of the Act includes provisions that could be used to strengthen packaging product stewardship. These provisions provide for the delivery of the commitment made in the NSW Government’s Plastics Action Plan to work closely with APCO to ensure achievement of the 2025 Targets, and government action to ensure a level playing field to ensure that APCO Members are not unfairly disadvantaged by ‘free riders’. Indeed, the Plan commits the NSW Government to reviewing progress towards the 2025 Targets within three years and considering mandating targets or design standards if necessary to address any issues.


The NSW legislation is available here, and more information on NSW’s Plastic Action Plan is available here.

 

Minister’s Priority List under the RAWR Act

 The Commonwealth Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE) is consulting on products for possible inclusion in the Minister’s Priority List for 2022-23 under the Recycling and Waste Reduction Act 2020 (RAWR Act).


The Minister’s Priority List identifies the products and materials considered to be most in need of a product stewardship approach. The list includes reasons a product has been identified, recommended actions and timeframes for action. It is reviewed every 12 months and the Minister may edit the list to remove products, identify further actions, and add new products. This may include the Minister making a decision to implement regulatory measures where adequate industry action has not been taken.

 

DAWE is accepting nominations of products for inclusion on the list until Friday 17 December 2021. Information on the nomination process is available here.

 

Progress on items on the Minister’s Priority List for 2021-22 will also be assessed. APCO is engaging with DAWE to support the review of the two 2021-22 priorities that 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

Actions recommended

Timing

Status

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. 

June–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.

 

 

Plastic Waste Cooperative Research Centre

 The Commonwealth Minister for Science and Technology, the Hon Melissa Price MP, announced on 7 December that a proposal to establish a Plastic Waste Cooperative Research Centre is one of six CRC proposals to make it through to the second stage of assessment for funding under CRC Round 23. The proposal is being led by Griffith University and is seeking $35 million in government funding for research to progress a circular economy for plastics, including packaging.

APCO is an industry partner in the proposed CRC, and is working with Griffith and the other research and industry partners to elaborate priorities in four work programs:

  • Plastics design for circularity
  • Transforming plastic waste
  • Clean up and remediate the environment
  • Collaborating for a circular economy.

Work to further develop the proposal is underway, with the second stage application due on 3 February 2023. This will include analysis of the economic benefit of the CRC for Australian businesses, and the strengthening of the work program in critical areas including reduction in plastic waste through the development and uptake of reuse models. APCO Members and stakeholders interested in joining or finding out more of the proposal are encouraged to contact APCO’s Government Partnership Manager, Peter Brisbane, at pbrisbane@apco.org.au.