Australia is in dire need of more plastics recycling capacity – up to 400 per cent – to reach its 2025 goals after export markets have dried up, according to a new government report.
The total rate of recycling for all plastics in Australia in 2017-18 was only 9.4 per cent, with the recycling rate for plastic packaging (both rigid and flexible) sitting at 27.6 per cent. The report says in order to reach the 70 per cent target, there needs to be “significant increase” in plastics recycling.
However, the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) believes that targets will be met. APCO CEO Brooke Donnelly told PKN she is confident that Australia is on track to deliver the 2025 National Packaging Targets.
“Finding a sustainable way to manage plastics will be our greatest challenge and – given its current low recovery rate – we acknowledge there is a significant task ahead of us in order to reach the 70 per cent recycled or composted target,” she said.
“On 18 March, APCO will be launching a comprehensive framework for how we achieve the 2025 National Packaging Targets. This document includes clear direction on which materials and polymers we need to target for the future, and which require phase-out."
The report found that local plastic reprocessing capacity needs to be dramatically expanded if Australia is to meet its 2025 National Packaging Targets, specifically recycling 70 per cent of all plastic packaging by 2025.
The report Recycling Market Situation, was commissioned by the Department of the Environment and Energy and authored by Peter Allan, director of Sustainable Resource Use.
“This expansion may need to be a 400 per cent increase in throughput, and this in turn will require new market outlets for recycling plastic resin, both into packaging and other applications,” the report says.
The global market for recyclable materials was volatile throughout 2019, due mainly to the import restrictions on recyclable material into China and some other Asian countries.
The report argues this “environment of constrained export markets” for some plastics makes a dramatic increase in local plastic reprocessing crucial.
Also, the report points out that flexible plastic packaging is not designated for inclusion in most kerbside collections. It suggests point-of-sale drop off collections as an interim measure, but it said existing point-of-sale collection programmes are yielding a “very small proportion” of flexible plastic packaging.