Packaging industry won’t meet single target on waste

A review has found the packaging industry's efforts to reduce waste going to landfill are failing.

A review has found the packaging industry's efforts to reduce waste going to landfill are failing. Photo: AAP

The packaging industry won’t meet any of the waste-busting targets it set for itself, sparking fresh calls for the government to force it to clean up its act.

In April 2018, the industry promised to dramatically reduce waste going to landfill by ramping up the recovery and reuse of packaging.

But it now says none of those four national targets will be met as planned by the end of 2025.

The targets included shifting to 100 per cent reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging and ensuring 70 per cent of plastic packaging was being recycled or composted.

The other two were an average of 50 per cent recycled content in packaging, and the phase-out of “problematic and unnecessary” single-use plastic packaging.

A review of the targets, released on Thursday by the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation, there will be shortfalls on all four targets despite some progress.

“We’ve seen some fantastic contributions from many businesses so it is disappointing that the headline data indicates targets will not all be met,” said CEO Chris Foley, whose organisation represents packaging manufacturers, major retailers and international brands.

News the industry’s voluntary efforts are failing is no surprise.

Frustration boiled over last month when Greens senator Peter Whish-Wilson grilled environment department executives about the lack of progress under a voluntary scheme trusted to the industry.

“What gives you any confidence they are going to solve this problem when they literally haven’t given a s— about it for decades?” he asked the executives.

Environment department senior executive Kate Lynch agreed some of the “ambitious” targets would not be met but said “having the targets in place is still a useful exercise”.

At the same hearing, Assistant Climate Change Minister Jenny McAllister said the government did not think the progress to date had been adequate, and there was broad agreement between the federal and state governments to pursue stewardship arrangements for plastics.

She said federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek was “thinking about regulatory arrangements” within that context.

Mr Foley said the 2025 targets had been a key driver of considerable action on moving to a circular economy but told industry members it was time to step up.

“It is time for many businesses to do more to reduce the impact of their packaging and improve its recoverability,” he said.

AAP has sought comment from the environment minister.


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