NEPM Used Packaging Review – NWRIC calls for single national regulation and independent body to manage implementation

Late last year the Federal government initiated a review of Australia’s framework for regulating packaging the National Environment Protection (Used Packaging Materials) Measure 2011 (UPM NEPM) which has been in place since 1999, more than 20 years.

This measure is comprised of two key elements (1) a requirement for states and territories to regulate brand owners to meet certain obligations relation to consumer packaging waste and (2) the Australian Packaging Covenant (Covenant) which is a national voluntary component that brand owners can sign up to be members of the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) and commit to deliver certain obligations to consumer packaging waste.

The purpose of the review is to focus on how this regulatory framework is achieving its environment protection goals, include do the regulations and Covenant need to be amended, how does it interact with other relevant Commonwealth legislation, how is it being resourced, as well as the environmental, cost and regulatory issues relevant to the optimal operation of the UPM NEPM and the Covenant including for example, governance arrangements, data collection, and reporting.

The review is not assessing performance against the 2025 national packaging targets as these targets are not legislated.

The discussion paper highlights the ineffectiveness of the current co-regulatory arrangements.

Deficiencies identified included:

  • Lack of high-level targets or KPIs and no clear KPIs or targets for individual liable brand owners.
  • No reliable, comparable data about consumption, recycling and recovery and compliance with the NEPM and Covenant is available
  • No uniform definition of brand owner and confusion over how the $5million threshold applies
  • Inconsistency between jurisdictions on brand owner obligations
  • No monitoring or enforcement of brand owner participation resulting in free riders

In responding to the consultation paper, the National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) CEO Rose Read said the obvious deficiencies and issues of the current multi-jurisdictional regulatory arrangement could be addressed by revoking the UPM NEPM and starting afresh by using the product stewardship powers under Recycling and Waste Reduction Act and creating an independent body to oversee compliance and implementation.

“The Consultation paper raises a number of issues that severely undermine any success of the current co-regulatory arrangement in managing consumer packaging waste.

“The result being ongoing environmental impacts, limited progress in packaging design and the cost of end-of-life disposal and recovery still being borne by local council ratepayers and not the brand owners.

“The businesses who make and use packaging have been free riding the Australian community for far too long.

“It’s time for the federal government to step up and honour its commitment to turbo charge product stewardship,” Ms Read said.

Ms Read said the review created the opportunity for the federal government to progress national reform under its new Recycling and Waste Reduction Act.

“This would include national rules under the RAWR Act that clearly define brand owner obligations; set targets, KPIs, reporting requirements and penalties for non-compliance; cost sharing principles as well as define roles of local and state governments and establishes a national independent body to coordinate its implementation,” said Ms Read.

A copy of the NWRIC response to the Consultation paper is available here.


Fast facts: Economic contribution

NWRIC’s From Waste to Value- The Australian Waste & Resource Recovery Industry 2020 report provides an important snapshot of the economic value of Australia’s waste and resource recovery industry.

National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) CEO Rose Read said the industry contributes $4.8b per annum directly to the economy.

“The industry’s economic contribution has been growing at an average annual rate of 6% for the last decade.

“In the five years to 30 June 2019, the industry’s value-add grew by 17%, outperforming other utilities industries,” said Ms Read.


According to NWRIC’s From Waste to Value report, total revenue generated by the industry was $16 billion in 2018-19. Flow-on effects from the industry’s activities generated an additional $34 billion across the rest of the economy, leading to a total revenue impact of $50 billion.


Webinar for members on battery storage and transport

The Australian Battery Recycling Initiative (ABRI) is working with NWRIC, WRIQ, WRINT, WRIWA and WRISA to deliver a national webinar program that will provide information about recent changes to the Australian Dangerous Goods Code and what this means for the storage and transport of batteries.

The webinar will provide practical guidance on safe packing of mixed loads of batteries for road transport and should be attended by anyone responsible for storage, packing or transport by road of mixed loads of batteries or interested in safe storage of batteries.

Presented by ABRI CEO Libby Chaplin and Debra Kirk, Manager Legislative Maintenance, National Transport Commission, the information provided is consistent with the latest version of the Australian Dangerous Goods Code.

National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) CEO Rose Read said the webinar was an important initiative and NWRIC was pleased to support it.

“Batteries are a potential fire risk, so it’s important that our members are up to speed on the safely handling of batteries and their obligations under the Australian Dangerous Goods Code,” Ms Read said.

There will be two sessions of the webinar, Tuesday 23 March 10.00-12.30 and Wednesday 14 April 10.00-12.30. Click here to register.