Sceptical reception for new packaging targets, recycling label

Thursday, 27 September, 2018

Sceptical reception for new packaging targets, recycling label

It’s been less than 24 hours since the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) announced its 2025 National Packaging Targets, at an event attended by Minister for the Environment Melissa Price. But not everyone is satisfied with the outcome of the event.

Senator Peter Whish-Wilson, Greens spokesperson for waste and recycling, has referred to the recycling targets endorsed by Price as “old hat” and “meaningless” without new regulatory structures and government investment to reboot recycling and move Australia towards a zero-waste future.

“Targets mean nothing without a plan,” Whish-Wilson said. “These are not new targets; in fact today’s announcement is just a rehash of previous media releases.”

As Chair of a Senate Inquiry into the waste crisis, Whish-Wilson said he has already heard what the waste industry and communities around the country say they need.

“All that information is tabled in the ‘Never waste a crisis: the waste and recycling in Australia’ report that is sitting on the Minister’s desk waiting to be read and responded to,” he said.

“Of prime importance is a new regulatory structure that enables product stewardship: creating circular economies that will save resources, build local industries, employ Australians and clean up our oceans and communities.

“Any targets that are set will invariably be subject to the vagaries of market conditions and economic expediency, but at the end of the day they are aspirational only unless set as mandatory targets, enshrined in legislation.

“Without any existing industry plan, I hold grave concerns the target of ‘diverting 80% of waste from landfill by 2030’ is code for the construction of toxic waste incinerators.

“The packaging industry’s ‘aspirational’ voluntary targets, announced by Minister Price, are not the leadership, action and certainty that is required.”

The event also saw Price officially launch the Australasian Recycling Label as a tool for achieving the National Packaging Targets, helping to combat consumer confusion about recycling. But the new label has received its own share of criticism — specifically from the Waste Management Association of Australia (WMAA), which has called it a missed opportunity.

“In real terms, the label needs to solve two problems: it needs to tell consumers how they can dispose of the waste, and if the packaging is made from recycled product,” said WMAA CEO Gayle Sloan.

“This label does neither and industry believes that this label will not help hit the targets set by the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO).”

The WMAA claims the APCO has failed to take on any of the feedback that industry associations, including the WMAA and the Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR), provided during the closed door consultation of the Towards 2025 paper, and that no industry body was represented yesterday at what APCO called “a milestone industry event”. APCO is thus attempting to operate outside of its remit, according to the WMAA, and continues work on industry issues without industry input.

“While WMAA congratulates many national organisations for agreeing to the targets set by APCO, without regulatory levers, the Australasian Recycling Label will fail to achieve the targets set,” Sloan said.

The industry deems APCO powerless to drive real change, according to the WMAA, with APCO’s current (co-regulatory) operating model too limited a system to achieve the 2025 goals. What is needed is an extended producer responsibility scheme, the association claims.

“What APCO and government need to understand is that setting targets without having a roadmap to achieve them is nonsensical,” Sloan said.

“Having a plan that not only addresses the targets that need to be achieved but also mandates the use of recycled content is the only way we can truly move forward.”

Image caption: Minister for the Environment Melissa Price and Planet Ark CEO Paul Klymenko at yesterday’s event.

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