Education vital for circular waste economy

The government has outlined the next steps for Australia achieving its 2025 recycling targets.
The government has outlined the next steps for Australia achieving its 2025 recycling targets.

Educating Australians about recycling is central to the federal government's goal of a circular economy.

In a circular economy packaging is recycled and reused rather than going to waste.

Assistant minister for waste reduction Trevor Evans, along with the Australian Packaging Covenant, on Wednesday outlined the next steps for the nation achieving its 2025 recycling targets.

The targets are:

* 100 per cent reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging

* 70 per cent of plastic packaging being recycled or composted

* 50 per cent of average recycled content included in packaging

* Phase out of problematic and unnecessary single-use plastics packaging.

Key steps to reach the goals are a national consumer education campaign for sustainable packing, waste collection partnerships in regional areas, traceability for recycled content and a national strategy for compostable packaging.

Mr Evans says about half of the nation's packaging is going to waste.

"That is the gap we need to bridge," he said.

The goal for recycled content in packaging has been boosted from 30 per cent to 50 per cent after an audit found the average was already 35 per cent.

But there's a huge difference across materials, with plastics only at two per cent of recycled content.

About 2.6 million tonnes (49 per cent) of packaging was recovered in 2017 to 2018.

Again there's a large range between materials, with 16 per cent of plastics recovered, 46 per cent for glass, 48 per cent metals and 63 per cent paper.

A staggered ban on waste exports will also result in additional challenges for the sector, given a handful of recycling facilities have also recently closed.

An estimated 200,000 to 300,000 tonnes of kerbside recyclables were in storage in Melbourne at the end of last year.

The government has previously flagged its desire to invest in the system.

Without any major changes, packaging consumption is expected to increase to 6.5 million tonnes by 2025, which is nearly a 20 per cent increase from 2017.

Planet Ark Environmental Foundation chief Paul Klymenko says achieving a circular economy requires one of the greatest collaboration efforts ever undertaken.

Australian Associated Press