Australia’s environment ministers will meet in Adelaide tomorrow to discuss the challenges of increasing the country’s plastic recycling rate amid Asian bans on waste imports.

Australia currently only recycles 14 per cent of plastic waste, according to Jeff Angel, director of the Boomerang Alliance, who warns that this is the “last chance” to avoid resorting to more landfilling and incinerators.

“Australia has taken bold actions before with the introduction of kerbside recycling 25 years ago; then landfill waste levies; and container refund schemes and plastic bag bans which have had significant impacts on plastic waste and litter.

“However, so far the National Waste Policy (NWP) is not worth the paper it is written on, until we have strong and concrete actions and funding to support its goals,” he said.

The alliance of 49 green groups has called for investment in domestic recycling, including banning the export of contaminated mixed plastics and paper; a plastic bag ban and container deposit scheme in every state, plus a phase-out of thick plastic bags; a phase-out of single-use plastic takeaway products including coffee cups/lids, straws, cutlery, cups, and containers by 2021; and stronger government regulation ensuring all packaging is reusable, compostable or recyclable by 2025, and that 70 per cent of all plastic packaging is recycled by 2025.

Sussan Ley, federal environment minister, said she is optimistic that the meeting will result in a “realistic” timetable.

“What is clear from meetings across the east and west coasts is that governments need to work together and to look for opportunities within the current infrastructure boom to grow our remanufacturing capability.

“Markets are critical and the principle of state, local and federal Governments mandating the inclusion of recycled, or more correctly remanufactured, materials is something we need to look at very seriously,” she said.

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