Call for comprehensive mandated Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) scheme for soft plastics in Australia

Posted on June 7, 2023 by DrRossH in Plastic Recycling


The collapse of REDcycle in 2022 brought into sharp focus the urgent need for national leadership and action to hold brand owners and the packaging industry to account. For too long, these producers and generators of these
materials have avoided responsibility for end-of-life product management. Councils and communities at the end of the chain are often left to deal with the challenges and costs of a growing stream of low value, high complexity
materials. This is not sustainable and the social, economic and environmental costs are significant.

WMRR urges the Commonwealth Government to use its powers under the Recycling and Waste Reduction Act 2020
(and with the support of state and territory ministers) to establish a mandatory product stewardship scheme for soft
plastics (in fact all packaging ideally), that is:
• Fully funded by those importing, producing, and selling the material; we believe that the Used Oil scheme
could provide a basis for this given it addressed imports and is also in part administered by the Australian
Taxation Office;
• Accessible to the community via a comprehensive network of retail and community drop off points;
• Supported by mandatory design standards and national packaging targets, including stronger enforceable
targets for Australian recycled content, as well as looking to use the oil scheme to introduce a tax on virgin
• Supported by mandatory adoption of the Australasian Recycling Label on all consumer packaging; and
• Accompanied by an ongoing consumer education program.
All these elements must be in place to genuinely solve this challenge, not simply the collection system. The absence
of sufficient reprocessing capacity and matching demand for Australia recycled products, was a significant
contributor to the REDcycle collapse. There are however numerous global examples (especially in the European
Union) of funded and effective packaging EPR schemes for Australia to draw upon, including schemes that fund the
construction and upgrade of facilities to both sort and reprocess these materials, as well as incentives to utilise the
recycled output in the supply chain via eco modulation of scheme levies.
The AFGC’s proposed NPRS does not impose any clear or enforceable obligations on AFGC members or other soft
plastics producers. Much like the REDcycle program, involvement with this scheme would allow AFGC members to
tout their environmental credentials without any accountability for the materials collected through the scheme.
Further the AFGC scheme pushes the cost of the scheme to councils and does not place any obligation on producers
to utilise Australian recycled content collected or adhere to the CEFLEX design standard. The scheme also fails to
establish national infrastructure for collection or reprocessing or address the most difficult and challenging part of
the system, namely the creation of demand and end markets for the Australian collected material.