Consumer products giant Unilever wants the Australian government to provide stronger coordination for companies as they work to meet new domestic recycling targets aimed at cutting down the nation’s waste production.
The Minister for the Environment and Energy Josh Frydenberg announced on April 27 that the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation will work with companies to make 100 percent of packaging reusable, combustible, or recyclable by 2025, or earlier.
The new targets came after the Chinese government announced its “green sword” policy last year that included a freeze on importing 24 types of recyclable materials.
China went ahead with the import ban on Jan 1, leaving Australia in urgent need of developing a new recycling system, with local waste companies reporting to be holding onto waste due to a lack of buyers.
Last year, Australia exported around 1.3 million tonnes of recyclable waste to China—four percent of the country’s total but 35 per cent of recyclable plastics, and 30 per cent of recyclable paper and cardboard, Frydenberg said in a statement.
In order to ensure that Australia continues to recycle reusable waste products instead of directing them to landfill, Frydenberg said that all three levels of government are working together to develop Australia’s capabilities and capacity for recycling. He said that the Turnbull government had already invested $200 million towards “waste-to-energy” projects.
But the multinational Unilever told the ABC that the progress isn’t moving quickly enough.
As Unilever has tried to push ahead in increasing its use reuse of recycled plastic, it says it’s rival companies have been able to take advantage of the lack of government targets regarding the percentage of recycled material used in packaging. These rivals have been saving costs by opting for virgin plastic materials.
Chief Executive of Unilever Australia and New Zealand Clive Stiff said that Australia should create something similar to the U.K’s Plastic Pact, where specific sustainability targets are set for companies to reach for.
“That would speed up things considerably,” he told the ABC.
Stiff also stated that the differences between states in recycling capacity and the materials facilities accept for recycling are slowing things down. In order for Australia’s recycling capacity to improve, he said that waste management laws and regulations could be standardised between the federal, state, and local governments, the ABC reported.
Unilever said is committed to increasing its use of recycled plastics in their products to at least 25% by 2025 against its 2015 baseline.
Recycling operations in over 100 countries have been affected by China’s ban, including Japan, the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union.