$60m federal recycling investment is welcome help for oceans

Australia’s leading ocean conservation group has welcomed a $60 million funding boost for recycling, describing it as a critical step forward in reducing the plastics polluting the environment.

The new $60 million funding round under the Recycling Modernisation Fund (RMF) will be a dedicated funding stream for advanced recycling infrastructure.

Advanced recycling, also referred to as feedstock, molecular, or chemical recycling, converts plastic waste into its chemical building blocks, where it can then be made into new plastic or other resources such as fuel.

The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) described the funding announcement as welcome news for our oceans, which are filling up with plastic trash.

“Difficult to recycle plastics such as soft plastics are one of our biggest obstacles to improving recycling rates,” said Shane Cucow, AMCS plastics expert.

“Only 4% of soft plastics are currently getting recycled in Australia, yet soft plastics are the most lethal type of consumer plastic for ocean wildlife like whales and turtles.

“These soft plastics are some of the most common plastics found in ocean cleanups. When eaten by wildlife they can wrap around other plastics in their stomachs, causing life threatening internal blockages.

“By investing in new recycling technologies targeting these hard to recycle plastics, the government is bringing us closer to the goal of keeping plastic out of our oceans.

Yet Mr Cucow warned the investment boost would not be enough to stem the tide of plastic pollution on its own.

“While this funding is welcome news, it won’t be enough to reach Australia’s target for 70% of plastic packaging to be recycled by 2025.

“According to projections from the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO), Australia is currently on track to recycle just 36% of plastic packaging by 2025, at best.

“The fact is we can never recycle all the plastic being created. Not while fresh virgin plastic is being pumped out in ever increasing volumes, by companies who don’t take responsibility for the pollution problem they have created.

“As long as Australia allows companies to increase their plastic use and avoid using recycled content, our oceans will pay the price.

“It’s time for the government to set mandatory targets to cut plastic use in Australia, with requirements for companies to use recycled content in their plastic packaging.”

Notes

The latest plastic packaging statistics can be found in the APCO Collective Impact Report, available here. Supporting materials are available on the APCO website https://apco.org.au/

Australia’s 2025 National Packaging Targets set voluntary targets for packaging recovery and design:

  • 100% of packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable
  • 70% of plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable or composted
  • 50% average recycled content is included in packaging
  • Phase out problematic and unnecessary single-use plastic packaging

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