Packaging is an important part of modern society. It helps to reduce food waste, protect products during transportation and ensure their security and safety. Packaging labelling also tells you how to best recycle and dispose of products and materials.
While the use of recycled content in packaging is increasing, most packaging is still made from virgin materials and finite resources. A lot of recyclable packaging is still disposed of to landfill. This can have significant impacts on the environment.
In Australia in 2020–21:
- 6.74 million tonnes of packaging was placed on market (POM)
- 86% of packaging POM had good recyclability
- 35% of packaging had good recyclability but was not collected or reprocessed
- 44% of packaging POM was disposed to landfill.
If all landfilled packaging had been recycled in 2020–21, we could have reduced national greenhouse gas emissions by about 2.2 million tonnes. This is equal to removing 740,000 cars from the road per year.
To reduce these impacts, we need to start designing all packaging to be recovered, reused, recycled and reprocessed safely. We can reduce the environmental harm by transforming Australia’s packaging. It should be designed sustainably, collected efficiently, and recycled into valuable materials and new products. We can also reduce the carbon emissions that come from a take, make and waste economy by shifting to an economy focused on reuse and recycling.
To build a circular economy for packaging in Australia, we are:
- working with all governments and industry to reform the regulation of packaging by 2025, to ensure that all packaging available in Australia is designed in line with circular economy principles
- supporting industry to achieve the 2025 National Packaging Targets
- supporting 20,000 small to medium-sized businesses to use the Australasian Recycling Label and improve their packaging sustainability
- working with state and territory governments to harmonise Container Deposit Schemes, unnecessary and problematic single-use plastics phase-outs, and kerbside collection systems.
- supporting the phase-out of harmful chemicals in packaging, in line with the National PFAS Position Statement.