2018 National Waste Policy
Based on circular economy principles, the 2018 National Waste Policy includes strategies to reduce waste generation, improve resource recovery, increase recycled content in goods and infrastructure, and reduce the impact of plastic and packaging on the environment. A copy of the Policy is available at http://www.environment.gov.au/protection/waste-resource-recovery/national-waste-policy
Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).
The harmful effects of marine debris are recognised under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) as a Key Threatening Process. Australia’s Threat Abatement Plan for the impacts of marine debris on the vertebrate wildlife of Australia’s coasts and oceans, includes a range of management approaches for research and monitoring, public outreach and education, preventing and reducing debris from land-based sources as well as addressing marine-based sources and removing accumulated marine debris from the coastal marine environment (see Measures below).
National Action Plan to implement the 2018 National Waste Policy
The 2018 National Waste Policy recognises reducing plastic pollution as a priority. All Australian governments are working together to develop an Action Plan to deliver the Policy. The Plan will include ambitious national waste reduction and recycling targets, and will give focus to reducing plastic pollution, supporting industry development, increasing demand for recycled materials through procurement, and a national approach to waste policy and regulation.
Ban on exports of waste plastic, paper, glass and tyres
In August 2019 all Australian governments agreed to ban the export of waste plastic, paper, glass and tyres, while building domestic capacity to generate high value recycled commodities and associated demand. A timetable and strategy for implementing these bans is currently under development.
Australian Recycling Investment Plan
The Australian Government has committed to a AU$167 million Australian Recycling Investment Plan to increase Australia’s recycling rates and tackle plastic waste and litter, and accelerate work on new recycling schemes. The Plan includes AU$100 million to support the manufacture of products using recycled materials (including plastics), AU$20 million to find new and innovative solutions to plastic recycling and waste, AU$16 million toward a Pacific Ocean Litter Project, and more than AU$11 million for community campaigns to reduce litter and clean up beaches and waterways.
Marine Debris Threat Abatement Plan
Australia is implementing the Threat Abatement Plan for the impacts of marine debris on the vertebrate wildlife of Australia’s coasts and oceans. The plan is available at https://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/tap/marine-debris-2018.
Australia is supporting the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) to assist Pacific Island Countries implement a Pacific Ocean Litter Project. The Project will focus on reducing access to and use of single use plastics, particularly take away food and drink containers, plastic bags and plastic straws. Plastic pollution is a priority for many Pacific Island countries.
International engagement and commitments
Australia is a member of international bodies and initiatives focussing on marine plastics, including the Commonwealth Clean Ocean Alliance, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities (GPA), UNEP’s Clean Seas Campaign, the International Coalition to Reduce Plastic Bag Pollution and the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy.
Under the UN Clean Seas Campaign Australia has made a number of public commitments, including to our four National Packaging Targets, seeking to reduce packaging waste and increase recycling. The targets are that by 2025:
- 100 per cent of Australian packaging will be recyclable, compostable or reusable.
- 70 per cent of Australia’s plastic packaging will be recycled or composted.
- 30 per cent average recycled content will be included across all packaging.
- Problematic and unnecessary single-use plastic packaging will be phased out through design, innovation or introduction of alternatives.
The High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Initiative
The High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy is a two year initiative consisting of heads of government from 14 nations, including Australia. Its role is to amplify and accelerate action for ocean health and wealth and create a roadmap for a rapid transition to a sustainable ocean economy. Marine pollution and the circular economy is a key issue for the Panel.
IMO Project to reduce marine plastic litter from ships in the Pacific Islands region
In 2018, Australia contributed AU$500,000 to a project to reduce ship-generated waste, notably plastics, in the Pacific Islands region. The two-year project aims to improve knowledge on the source of plastic litter from ships in the region; identify and implement innovative actions to reduce discharges of plastic litter from ships and remove existing litter from the marine environment; and discourage future illegal litter discharges from ships by improving general awareness about the negative impacts of marine plastic litter.
The project is being implemented by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to support the enhanced implementation and enforcement of international conventions to prevent pollution from ships in the Pacific Islands region. The project commenced in December 2018 with a scoping exercise undertaken in Fiji and planned for Papua New Guinea (PNG).
The scoping exercise aims to gather necessary data on the extent of the problem and contributing factors to identify national activities that could be implemented in a second phase of the Project in the form of a ‘National Project Action Plan (NPAP)’, or in potential follow-up projects, agreed by each recipient country
In December 2018, Australia’s environment ministers and the President of the Australian Local Government Association set a unified direction for waste and recycling in Australia by agreeing to a new National Waste Policy. On 9 August 2019, the Council of Australian Governments agreed to ban exports of waste plastic, paper, glass and tyres while building Australia’s capacity to generate high value commodities and associated demand. The ban will have environmental benefits through an expanded local recycling industry, by building Australia’s capacity to make valuable products from recycled materials, and making sure Australia take responsibility for its waste.
Australian Recycling Investment Plan
The Australian Government has committed to a $167 million Australian Recycling Investment Plan to increase Australia’s recycling rates, tackle plastic waste and litter, accelerate work on new recycling schemes and continue action to halve food waste by 2030.
Australian governments committed to a voluntary phase-out of microbeads in 2016, and 94 per cent of cosmetic and personal care products are microbeads free.
The Australian Government is supporting the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) to deliver industry-led national packaging targets by 2025 to make 100 per cent packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable, 70 per cent plastic packaging will be recycled or composted, 30 per cent average recycled content will be included in packaging, and problematic and unnecessary single use plastic packaging will be phased out. Further information is available at https://www.packagingcovenant.org.au/.
Australia is conducting a range of research to better understand marine debris, including marine plastic pollution. Recent CSIRO research indicates that 75% of Australian beach pollution is plastic. This research will help us set baselines for marine debris and plastic pollution, allowing us to track this over time. For details on CSIRO marine debris research, see https://www.csiro.au/en/Research/OandA/Areas/Marine-resources-and-industries/Marine-debris.
National Waste Reports
Australia’s National Waste Reports describe Australia’s national performance on waste and recycling. The Reports presents data and commentary on waste generation, recovery and fate for all waste streams and various material categories. It also analyses this information by jurisdiction and on a per capita basis. For more information is available at: http://www.environment.gov.au/protection/waste-resource-recovery/national-waste-reports/national-waste-report-2018
Note: Relevant indicators, data or other numerical information can be included at the discretion of each country, for example: (1) the amount of waste generated, reused, collected, recycled, and properly disposed of; (2) the amount of marine litter cleaned up; (3) the scale of use of innovative technologies and materials including R&D investment; (4) the scale and/or effect of assistance for countries that need technical capacity development including the increased amount of waste properly disposed of. (encouraged to indicate the proportion/elements of plastics and/or microplastics, if available)