Federal Government pledges to make packaging 'reusable, combustible, or recyclable' by 2025

Date: 1 May 2018

The Federal Government has struck a deal with states and territories to address Australia's mounting waste burden.

Local councils across the nation have been grappling with higher service costs after China banned foreign waste imports.

Australia exported about a third of its recyclable waste to China because of limited domestic processing facilities.

Photo: Ministers resolved to develop a voluntary deal to cut down on unrecyclable packaging and help prioritise waste-to-energy projects.

Key points:

  • States and territories agree to reduce unrecyclable packaging, help support waste-to-energy projects
  • Greens, Labor believe more can be done to phase out use of plastic
  • Recycling group want to see details, funding plans

Environment ministers met in Melbourne on Friday to brainstorm solutions.

The Australian Local Government Association stressed the issue fell into the Federal Government's jurisdiction as much as local and state governments.

Building incinerators to convert waste into energy and phasing out unrecyclable packaging in less than five years were the core foundations of the voluntary deal.

Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg was confident good progress had been made in tackling the waste issue.

"By 2025 or earlier, all Australian packaging in Australia will be reusable, combustible, or recyclable," he said.

"This is an important step forward and will have a real positive impact."

Waste-to-energy projects 'big on agenda'

Reducing unrecyclable packaging was not overshadowed by a proposal to support more waste to energy projects.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the incinerators were a "very big agenda" for Australia.

He said he discussed the idea with German companies during his recent trip Europe.

Mr Frydenberg said it was an important part of the plan to deal with stockpiling waste.

"There's been some talk that maybe up to 2 per cent of Australia's energy needs could be met by waste-to-energy," Mr Frydenberg said.

The incinerator proposal was not as favourable with the Greens and recycling groups.

Senator Peter Whish-Wilson described the solution as a "lazy" response to the waste crisis.

"If burning waste, if burning plastic is your answer, you're asking the wrong question," Senator Whish-Wilson said.

He also warned the major incinerator model would not be feasible in Australia, explaining companies needed 30-year power agreements the Australian grid could not cater for.

Peter Shmigel from the Australian Council of Recycling said waste-to-energy proposals should not eclipse bolstered recycling efforts as a solution.

"It certainly shouldn't be a substitute for the recycling strategies that the Australian community values," Mr Shmigel said.

This sentiment was echoed by Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, who said the community felt it "could do more on recycling and phasing out the use of plastic bags".

He also felt the environment ministers' plan lacked detail and promise.

"Ministers have struck the right chords with their package today, but haven't made two sounds to the count; the sounds of detail and the sound of dollars," Mr Shmigel said.


By political reporters Kathleen Ferguson and Andrew Probyn

Source: ABC News