Supermarkets and multinational manufacturers have disclosed a plastics pact across Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands
Australia will miss its 2025 targets to cut plastic pollution from packaging unless it shifts from voluntary programmes to enforcement, an alliance of conservation groups and the Greens have said.
On Tuesday major supermarkets and multinational food and consumer goods manufacturers launched a new voluntary programme across Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Islands with a goal that plastic “never becomes waste or pollution”.
But an alliance of more than 50 groups campaigning to cut plastic pollution said the new ANZPAC Plastics Pact launch was “not the major step” in tackling the plastic waste crisis that it seemed.
Among the ANZPAC members announced during the launch at the Australian National Maritime Museum were supermarkets Coles, Aldi and Woolworths, alongside plastics producers, recyclers, environmental groups and the CSIRO.
Manufacturers Nestle, Unilever, Pepsico, Coca-Cola and Arnott’s Biscuits are also among the members. A roadmap was being developed and members will report progress on four 2025 targets:
*Eliminate unnecessary and problematic plastic packaging through redesign, innovation and alternative (reuse) delivery models.
*100% of plastic packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging.
*Increase plastic packaging effectively recycled by 25% in each region.
*Average of 25% recycled content in plastic packaging.
The pact is led by the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (Apco), which is also responsible for delivering Australia’s national 2025 targets on plastic packaging.
Jeff Angel, the director of the Boomerang Alliance of 53 groups working on plastic pollution, said his alliance did not think voluntary arrangements were enough.
“With only 13% of plastic packaging being actually recycled and just 4% with recycled content – there are some very big challenges ahead.”
The group released a report outlining its concerns and pointing to policies in the European Union, where requirements for recycled content and recovery of beverage containers were mandated.
“It is appropriate and sensible that Australia follows the EU lead and government and Apco focus on obtaining action by the entire packaging sector under an effective regulatory regime,” the report said.
Angel said in Australia, if the voluntary scheme could not show by the middle of next year that national 2025 targets would be met, then all the targets should be enforced.
He said states had introduced bans on single-use plastics, and if the same regulatory approach was taken nationally to recycling and recycled content targets “then we can guarantee substantial action”.
“However, the packaging covenant has resisted such action for many years,” Angel added.
Releasing the Oceania-wide plastic pact, Apco said the agreed average recycled content of plastic packaging should be 25% by 2025 across the region.
But Angel and the Greens senator Peter Whish-Wilson said this undercut Australia’s national target of 50% of packaging coming from recycled materials.
Whish-Wilson said: “The packaging industry fought hard to stop mandatory targets, even though they always said they were confident in meeting voluntary commitments.
“Strong, mandated targets would give the waste and recycling industry the certainty to invest in building a circular economy and creating green new jobs.”
In a statement the Apco chief executive, Brooke Donnelly, said Australia’s national target was for 50% of average recycled content included in packaging by 2025 and applied to all packaging made, used and sold in Australia.
“Australian industry and government are committed to achieving it,” she said.
The Oceania target applied specifically to plastic packaging, she said, and met the “the needs and capacity of all countries in the region”.
She said the pact was “about taking action, not policy or legislation” and it was not feasible for a program to set mandatory targets across different countries.
The assistant federal minister for waste reduction and environmental management, Trevor Evans, has previously told the Guardian that a review was looking at whether the covenant arrangements would be enough to achieve its environmental goals.
Under the government’s approach, companies that produce and use packaging and have an annual turnover greater than $5m (US$3.8 million) can either sign up to Apco or choose to be regulated by states and territories.
But an independent review, commissioned by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, found no reported compliance actions, investigations or complaints from states and territories in four years.
This story was produced by Graham Readfearn, published at the Guardian on 18 May 2021, reposted via PACNEWS.
Banner: Environment groups want Australia to follow the EU lead and regulate the entire packaging sector to meet 2025 pollution targets. Photo: Tracey Nearmy/AAP