Transforming soft plastics recycling – Australia

Posted on April 21, 2023 by DrRossH in Plastic Recycling


The recent events that have seriously disrupted soft plastic recycling in Australia highlight the country’s vulnerable recycling ecosystem. 

The government’s ambitious targets, including a target of 70 per cent of plastic packaging being recycled or composted by 2025, mirrors Australian consumers’ positive attitude towards recycling. According to the 2022 Australasian Recycling Label Consumer Insights Report, 87 per cent of Australians believe that recycling at home is the right thing to do.

Turning this into a reality, however, is going to require the entire supply chain to come together, and there are ample reasons to do so.

According to Plastics Europe’s latest report, in 2021, 90 per cent of the world’s plastics production was fossil-based. Post-consumer recycled plastics and bio-based/bio-attributed plastics respectively accounted for 8.3 per cent and 1.5 per cent of the world’s plastics production.

By 2030, the energy embodied in items that get thrown away will represent up to 15  per cent of our current CO2 emissions. Between now and then, carbon emissions associated with the production of what eventually becomes municipal waste will grow by up to two-thirds, undermining efforts in other areas of the economy that are getting the most attention, such as energy and transport systems.

The sheer volume of waste and its mismanagement pose the twin threats of direct pollution and loss of resources, poised to increase as populations continue to grow.

What can we say?   The reality of recycling plastics is still a long ways away.  Much more regulation is required to turn this path around.  Once we are there the costs will drop again, but we have to get there first.