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The Australian federal government has announced a review of the Australian Packaging Covenant and National Environment Protection (Used Packaging Materials) Measure 2011 (NEPM).

The Covenant is an agreement to reduce the environmental impacts of packaging and is in place between the country’s federal, state, territory, and local governments, along with organisations within the packaging supply chain, managed and administered by the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) 

The NEPM is Commonwealth legislation implemented and enforced by states and territories, which supports and complements the voluntary strategies in the Covenant.

The review is looking to evaluate how well the NEPM and Covenant are achieving their environmental protection goals and will cover administration, policy and legislative issues around the application, effectiveness, and efficiency of the arrangement.

“APCO welcomes the NEPM review process. Periodic reviews are a critical element of good governance practice and this review provides the perfect opportunity for APCO, our members and stakeholders to reflect on the important factors for our sector and have our voices heard on our way forward for improving Australia's packaging sustainability and meeting the 2025 National Packaging Targets,” says Brooke Donnelly, APCO CEO.

Rose Read, National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) CEO, also welcomes the review as she believes for the most part, the program has failed, considering many of the packaging issues the country faced back when it was implemented 20 years ago still exist today.

According to Read, these packaging issues include: “poorly designed packaging that prevents high recycling rates, limited reuse of materials back into packaging, the cost to manage packaging at end-of-life, including cleaning up litter still being left to local councils”.

“The NWRIC considers the only way to solve the packaging issues that face Australia is to mandate recycled content, to penalise companies who do not meet sustainable packaging guidelines or labelling, and to implement a mandatory product stewardship scheme that sees end-of-life packaging costs shifted from local councils to the companies who put the products on the market.”

Read also highlights the introduction of container deposit schemes in NSW, the ACT, Queensland, and WA as an example of how a properly regulated scheme can “quickly change behaviours, reduce litter and increase resource recovery rates”.

A consultation paper is available to read along with an online survey form by clicking here. Feedback is due by 5 March 2021.

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