Launch of National Plastics Plan

Australia’s first National Plastics Plan was launched yesterday in Brisbane.

National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) CEO Rose Read welcomed the Plan, saying the actions take a more holistic approach to driving greater recovery of plastics and cleaning up our waterways.

“The Plan, like last year’s summit, brings together government, industry and the community in actions that address plastics at the source, drive greater recovery, help consumers do the right thing, protect and clean up our oceans and waterways, and drive innovation.

“Many of the actions outlined in the plan are already underway, for example the waste export bans are already rolling out, the Recycling Modernisation Fund is being invested in by governments and industry, and many states and territories have Container Deposit Schemes  in place.

“However, there are some new initiatives that will help clean up what our industry collects and processes,” Ms Read said.

These initiatives include:

  • phasing out problematic plastics like EPS, non-compostable plastic packaging and PVC packaging labels (by Dec 2022)
  • driving national consistency in kerbside collections
  • holding APCO more accountable to its targets including 80% of supermarket products to display the Australian Recycling Label by Dec 2023
  • holding a Plastic Design Summit to transition towards higher-value, easily recyclable plastics such as PET, HDPE, LDPE and PP, and encourage the design of easier to recycle products

Ms Read acknowledged that one of the Plan’s weaknesses was the lack of economic and regulatory interventions to create market demand for quality recycled materials.

“At present, only voluntary actions like voluntary pledges and procurement rules are included in the Plan, which gives little confidence to the sector.

“It would have been prudent for the plan to include more effective market creation strategies such as incentives, penalties, taxes, rebates or mandating recycled content targets.

“Unfortunately, unlike in the EU and the UK there is no tax on the use of virgin plastics or recycled content labelling,” said Ms Read.


State and territory progress on banning single-use plastics

This week South Australia’s ban on single-use plastics came into effect, with plastic straws, cutlery and stirrers prohibited from sale, supply, or distribution in the state from 1 March.

National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) CEO Rose Read said the introduction of bans on single-use plastics from several states and territories was a very positive step.  However, more states and territories need to step up to ensure we have national consistency in a timely manner.

Single-use plastics ban state of play

State/ Territory Single-use plastic items banned Timetable
SA Straws, cutlery and stirrers 1 March 2021
QLD Straws, cutlery, plates and stirrers 1 July 2021
VIC Straws, cutlery, plates, drink-stirrers, expanded polystyrene food and drink containers, and cotton bud sticks Feb 2023
ACT Cutlery, drink stirrers and expanded polystyrene takeaway food and beverage containers July 2021
NSW Nothing proposed at this time – discussion paper in April 2020 sort feedback on key single-use plastics Unknown
NT Nothing proposed at this time Unknown
WA Plastic plates, cutlery, stirrers, straws, thick plastic bags, polystyrene food containers and helium balloon releases 2023
TAS Draft waste action plan notes phasing out of problematic and unnecessary plastics by 2030  


“All these single-use items can be replaced with reusable and compostable alternatives.

“According to the National Waste Report 2020 about 85% of discarded plastics are sent to landfill.

“It’s important we only use plastics that are genuinely recyclable, or we look for alternative products. We need to make serious in-roads into keeping plastics out of the environment and reducing the amount sent to landfill,” Ms Read said.

Listen to Rose’s interview on single-use plastics ban in Victoria with Libbi Gorr on This Weekend Life (link below and at the 33.30 mark).


Fast Facts:  Reducing emissions

NWRIC’s From Waste to Value- The Australian Waste & Resource Recovery Industry 2020 report outlines the progress the waste and resource recovery industry has made in reducing waste emissions.

NWRIC CEO Rose Read said that while the amount of waste generated in Australia has been increasing, waste emissions have reduced substantially over the past two decades.

“Our From Waste to Value report shows that Australia’s waste generation has been growing at an average annual rate of 2.8% over the last decade.

“Yet despite that, the industry has reduced waste emissions by 35% since 1990, through sustained improvement in the recovery of waste methane gas from landfills.”


According to Ms Read, to deliver further significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from waste, the focus should be to increase organic resource recovery through a national roll out of food and organic collection services for households and businesses.

“This will not only further reduce emissions but also increase the amount of renewable energy generated through bioenergy,” she said.


Success for Future Waste Resources Convention held on the Gold Coast

A very successful Future Waste Resources Convention was held this week on the Gold Coast, hosted by Waste and Recycling Industry Association Queensland (WRIQ), along with Queensland Farmers’ Federation and the Australian Industrial Ecology Network (AIEN).

NWRIC CEO Rose Read chaired two sessions, one on regulatory insights and the other on recycling.

“For many delegates, it was the first time in more than a year we were able to come together face to face as an industry.

“It was pleasing to see both the Federal Waste Reduction Minister the Hon. Trevor Evans and the new Queensland Environment Minister the Hon. Meaghan Scanlon in attendance.  Sadly, there seems to have been little progress in rolling out the Recycling Modernisation Fund in Queensland with the agreement between State and the Federal government still to be finalised.

“Highlights of the conference included an update on the national waste export bans and modernisation fund; progress on tackling food waste, ramping up FOGO collections and processing capacity; the future of energy recovery from waste and biogas in the agriculture sector; and WRIQ CEO, Mark Smith’s closing wrap up.

“Congratulations to all involved a very productive event bringing many companies across the supply chain together with government and researchers,” Ms Read said.