Australia signs up to help end global plastic pollution

Wednesday, 16 November, 2022

Australia signs up to help end global plastic pollution

Minister for the Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek announced today (16 November 2022) that Australia will join the High Ambition Coalition to End Plastic Pollution ahead of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee Meeting (INC1) in Uruguay later this year.

Co-led by Norway and Rwanda, the High Ambition Coalition is a group of 30 like-minded countries, including the UK, Germany, France and Canada, advocating for an ambitious global plastics treaty to cap plastic production and ultimately end single-use plastic.

The overarching goal of the coalition is to end plastic pollution by 2040 by: 

  • restraining the consumption and production of plastic to sustainable levels
  • enabling a circular economy for plastics in which plastic products are either reused, recycled or remanufactured when no longer useful or required for their initial purposes
  • achieving environmentally sound management and recycling of waste plastic.

Australia has also signed the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, fulfilling Minister Plibersek’s promise at the UN Oceans Conference that Australia would sign up to the Global Commitment by the end of the year.

“Plastic pollution is a global problem and it’s going to require global solutions,” Plibersek said.

“That’s why we’re delighted to join the High Ambition Coalition and the Global Commitment.

“My vision is for us to achieve a plastic-free Pacific within our lifetime.

“Through the High Ambition Coalition and the Global Commitment, we look forward to strengthening partnerships across the globe to stamp out plastic pollution.”

Given the recent suspension of the REDcycle national soft plastics recycling scheme, the commitment from the government has been welcomed by most in the industry but some questions still remain as to how these goals will be achieved.

Terence Jeyaretnam, EY's APAC Leader and Partner, Climate Change and Sustainability Services, said: “This new commitment is critical for Australia, but at this early stage questions remain open as to how the target will be achieved, what incentives will be put in place, will caps be allocated within plastic industries to lock in the rate of change needed to achieve the commitment.

“I’d like to see the government work closely with industry to focus, where possible, on the elimination of plastic packaging to start with; and with what’s left in the economy, work on more streamlined and efficient collection of recyclables underpinned by a growing market for products made from recycled content.

“For the circular economy to work effectively, we need to rebuild trust in Australia’s recycling capability. We need to better support the right recycling behaviours at a household level, we need the right processes and infrastructure in place, and we need the right incentives for companies to be using recycled plastics for goods that require it in place of virgin plastic.”

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