Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley and the Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environmental Management Trevor Evans recently congratulated companies and Students for stepping up with key commitments at the closing of the first ever National Plastics Summit.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison opened the Summit, telling major retailers, recyclers, industry groups researchers and students that Australia needs to take responsibility for its plastic waste and has foreshadowed further budget announcements to encourage demand for recycled products and to expand industry capability.
Morrison stated that Every year we export some 1.4 million tonnes of waste plastic, paper, glass and tyres. Every year, 8 million tonnes of plastics ends up in our oceans. Scientists estimate that in just 30 years’ time the weight of plastics in our oceans will exceed the weight of fish in our oceans.
The Australian Council of Recycling observed that only 8 per cent of the $2.6 billion collected by states and territories through waste levies has been reinvested in recycling infrastructure and technology. Only 21 per cent of plastic waste we put in our yellow bin for recycling is actually recycled. We are working with state and territory governments to identify and unlock the critical upgrades that will lead to a step-change in their recycling capacity.
The waste sector in Australia employs around 50,000 people and generates around $15 billion every year. For every 10,000 tonnes of waste sent to landfill, 2.8 direct jobs are created. But if we recycle the same waste, as mentioned before, 9.2 direct jobs are created.
According to the Australian Council of Recycling, recycling more domestically could create more than 5,000 new jobs. The global recycled plastics market is expected to grow at 7.9 per cent annually over the next decade, they are phenomenal figures, and be worth almost $67 billion in 2025 concluded the Prime Minister.
Minister Ley stressed the government’s commitment to fixing Australia’s plastic waste problem and the importance of industry working with government and consumers while Assistant Minister Evans highlighted the economic opportunities and the fact the recycling industry was ready to step up to improve recycling rates. Australia’s largest manufacturer of rigid plastics, Pact Group, announced a $500 million investment in existing and new facilities for sustainable packaging, re-use and recycling initiatives over the next five years. Retail giant Coles announced $430,000 in new funding for REDcycle to treble the amount of soft based plastic that it collects, while Nestlé will partner with waste management company IQ Renew in a trial that will see soft plastics collected from more than 100,000 homes, diverting tonnes of soft plastic otherwise headed for landfill.
McDonalds has announced the phasing out of 585 tonnes of single use plastic by removing plastic knives and forks from stores by the end of the year, while Australia Post has pledged to make all plastic postage bags out of recycled material by December 2020. Other organisations making major commitments included APCO, Kmart, CleanAway, Amcor, Pepsico, Qantas, Licella, Unilver, IQ Renew, Plastics Forests and Dairy Australia. In Old Parliament House, children at the National Plastics Students Summit received a visit from the Governor General and considered ways individual households can reduce their plastic consumption, presenting their findings to the full Summit.
“We have had some amazing students who have already at a young age made outstanding contributions in raising awareness on these issues,” Minister Ley said. “This summit has brought together a broad range of ideas and commitment and it has put plastic waste firmly on the national agenda.” Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environmental Management, Trevor Evans, said today’s summit was another important step in working with industry to drive long-term practical outcomes such as increasing Australia’s recycling rates and domestic reprocessing capabilities. “We are looking towards fundamentally changing the way we think about and manage our waste, and creating new markets for recycled products,” Mr Evans said. “This transformation towards a circular economy will both create jobs and help our environment”.
Special Envoy for the Great Barrier Reef the Hon Warren Entsch said that the Student’s summit was an important highlight as he accompanied eleven-year-old Cairns student Molly Steer who led a national campaign against plastic straws. “These kids are the ones we have to take note of, they are the leaders of our future,” he said.
Collectively, these commitments will save hundreds of tonnes of plastic from going to landfill each year and will assist in growing and transforming Australia’s recycling and waste management industry as we take responsibility for our own waste. In closing the Summit, Minister Ley congratulated industry for their ongoing commitment to reducing the environmental impacts of waste plastics and making fundamental changes to their business operations to help transition Australia to a circular economy by turning waste into a resource.