Australia raises recycling and reduction targets to 80% by 2030 amid pollution scourge
24 Jan 2023 --- Australia’s National Waste Policy Action Plan sets targets of recycling or reusing 80% of the country’s waste by 2030. The plan covers all forms of waste across sectors, from food to “business waste.”
The Australian government previously set a 70% recycling plastic target by 2025, now increasing the goal by 10% for 2030.
Between 2016 and 2017, Australia generated 2.7 metric tons of waste per person. According to government reports, 16% of the country’s plastic packaging was recycled or composted from 2019 to 2020 – down 18% from 2018 to 2019.
Environmentalists criticize the country for falling behind its promises for 2025, seemingly lacking in its waste reduction targets. At the current rate, Australians will have to reduce or recycle an additional 12.92 million metric tons of waste each year to reach the 2030 figure.
However, as a country, continent and island Australia faces challenges that other countries with more remarkable reduction statistics do not. “Our regulatory frameworks at the state level are all over the place. They are fragmented, they are diverse, making it difficult for the industry to invest with certainty,” says Suzanne Toumbourou, chief executive of the Australian Council of Recycling.
A country of great proportion
Australia is the sixth-largest country in the world by landmass. Its communities spread to every corner of the continent, each with its recycling policies.
“There are cultural differences between states but also hardline regulatory differences. A lot of national operators really struggle to navigate all of that,” continues Toumbourou.
Australia’s size leads to its division into 537 smaller local government areas, which vary in what recycling services they offer their residents. Australian councils still fall behind in providing food and garden organic bins, with only 25% of the local governments offering them.
“The difference we see in Europe is the governments have said the research has to be business-led. In Australia, we haven’t got that same focus,” comments Edward Kosior, inaugural director of the RMIT Polymer Technology Center.
“In the UK, the government has sponsored detailed research and innovation into areas with blockages. In Australia, we haven’t seen that type of focus on specific research,” he adds.
Reduce, reuse, recycle
The main pillars of the waste reduction plan are to improve reuse and reparability, encourage innovation, encourage sustainable design, improve consumer awareness and support consumer choices. The country states it will do so through targeted waste avoidance action, better design, knowledge sharing and education and behavior changes to drive new ways to reduce waste.
A key factor to Australia meeting its 80% target is delivering the industry-led target of 100% of all Australia’s packaging being reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.
One million metric tons of Australia’s annual plastic consumption is single-use plastic, according to the Australian government. Eighty-four percent of plastic is sent to landfills, with 13% being recycled. Additionally, every year in Australia, approximately 130,000 metric tons of plastic leak into the marine environment.
However, more promising numbers from a study conducted by the University of Technology Sydney estimated that 56% of all packaging waste in Australia was recovered and recycled. While compared to European countries, that rate may be low, it is closer to the country’s goal than other reports.
However, 72% of paper packaging and only 32% of plastics were recycled. PET, high-density PE and PVC plastic had even lower recycling rates, below 30%. The report continues that 72% of aluminum was recycled, and 54% of metal.
In December, the first intergovernmental committee meeting by the United Nations Environmental Programme to negotiate the terms of an internationally legally binding plastics pollution treaty was concluded.
UN nations have already divided into camps within the negotiations, with the US reportedly creating a coalition with Australia and Japan. The coalition’s agenda is to keep the treaty’s focus on individual countries’ efforts.
By Sabine Waldeck
To contact our editorial team please email us at email@example.com
Subscribe now to receive the latest news directly into your inbox.