• Metcash and 7-Eleven have joined the recycling scheme, which includes kerbside collection.
    Metcash and 7-Eleven have joined the recycling scheme, which includes kerbside collection.

The recent announcement of a pathway forward for soft plastics collection from Australia’s environment ministers has been welcomed by the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC).

The meeting of the ministers, held in Sydney on 21 June, considered the growing challenge of soft plastics, and industry’s slow progress to re-establish in-store collection since the collapse of the REDcycle scheme

Ministers discussed progress on the Commonwealth’s new National Circular Economy Framework, due to be finalised by December 2024, and which will drive a faster transition to a circular economy and ensure efficient use of key resources and materials in Australia.

Ministers confirmed their commitment to a circular economy for plastics established in Australia, and noted progress on a roadmap to staged improvement in the harmonisation of kerbside collection to report back to environment ministers by the end of 2024.

This roadmap will address a pathway and criteria to soft plastics collection that considers national design standards currently under development; different collection approaches across metropolitan, regional and remote locations; and national processing capacity. The roadmap may incorporate different timelines in different jurisdictions.

AFGC CEO, Tanya Barden
AFGC CEO, Tanya Barden

AFGC, the country’s peak body for the food and grocery manufacturing industries, said it looks forward to continued collaboration to find a clear and consistent solution to packaging through upcoming consultation.

“Food and grocery manufacturers and retailers have contributed resources in time and money to get an industry-led solution to soft plastic recycling on the national agenda,” said Tanya Barden, CEO of the AFGC.

“The announcement is an important step in driving the soft plastic circular economy and the work we have been doing on a product stewardship scheme.”

Ministers agreed to encourage the development of stronger end markets for recycled products, with a priority list of materials or products to be identified for consideration at the next meeting of environment ministers. The state of Victoria will lead this work.

Progress on the new national packaging regulatory scheme was discussed, and the ministers noted that advice for industry on anticipated design requirements, including recyclability, recycled content requirements and designing out chemicals from packaging placed on the market, will be released at the end of 2024.

Ministers also noted that removing PFAS in packaging is an urgent priority for all jurisdictions and will be dealt with through design standards in consultation with the Heads of EPA Australia and New Zealand (HEPA).

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