Waste Policies - National, State and Regional

baled goods policies
worker standing in front of baled recyclables at sorting facility

How our Government is working to improve resource recovery

Australia's resource recovery sector has been facing some challenges - especially since the introduction of the China Sword Policy, which banned the importation of recyclables into China unless they met extremely low contamination levels (which Australia could not meet). This action has prompted Australia to take a hard look at how we have been recovering resources and managing their recovery. Government and industry are working together to improve our ability to re-process our own recovered resources onshore and work towards a circular economy.

Federal Government - National level

National Waste Policy Action Plan

The 2018 National Waste Policy: Less waste, more resources provides a framework for collective, national action on waste management, recycling and resource recovery to 2030.

The National Action Plan presents seven targets and associated actions to implement the 2018 National Waste Policy. This approach is driven by considering waste as a resource and applying circular economy principles. National targets include:

  • banning the export of waste plastic, paper, glass and tyres
  • reducing total waste generated per person by 10% by 2030,
  • achieving 80% average resource recovery rates from all waste streams by 2030;
  • significantly increasing the use of recycled content by governments and industry;
  • phasing out problematic and unnecessary plastics by 2025; and
  • halving the amount of organic waste sent to landfill by 2030.

National Plastics Plan 2021

The National Plastic Plan 2021 outlines our approach to increase plastic recycling, find alternatives to unnecessary plastics and reduce the impact of plastic on the environment.

National Food Waste Strategy 2017

The National Food Waste Strategy provides a framework to support collective action towards halving Australia’s food waste by 2030. The four priority areas are:

  • Policy support: Policies are supportive of food waste avoidance, reduction and repurposing
  • Business improvement: Improvement and adoption of technologies, processes and actions to avoid and reduce food waste
  • Market development: Development of markets to support the repurposing of food waste
  • Behaviour change: Practices and attitudes towards avoiding and reducing food waste are adopted and sustained

National Packaging Targets 2025

In 2019, in response to China’s National Sword policy, the Australian government established four National Packaging Targets to be achieved by 2025.

  1. 100% of all Australia’s packaging will be reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025 or earlier
  2. 70% of Australia’s plastic packaging will be recycled or composted by 2025
  3. 30% average recycled content will be included across all packaging by 2025
  4. Phase out single-use plastic packaging through design, innovation or introduction of alternatives.

The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) has been working with government and industry to develop relevant strategies to work towards these National targets:

Our Packaging Future (March 2020) - the strategic framework outlining how Australia will deliver the 2025 National Packaging targets.

National Composting Packaging Strategy (June 2021) - outlines the actions to be taken collectively to ensure that certified compostable packaging is used appropriately and helps to facilitate a circular economy for packaging and food waste.

Phasing out exports of waste plastic, paper, glass and tyres – 'Response strategy to implement the August 2019 agreement of the Council of Australian Governments 2020'

The response strategy presents a coordinated and ambitious package to implement the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) waste export ban. The export ban includes waste plastic, paper, tyres and glass.

State Government - NSW

NSW Waste and Sustainable Materials Strategy 2041 – Stage 1: 2021-2027

The NSW Waste and Sustainable Materials Strategy focuses on waste reduction and recycling, environmental benefits and economic opportunities in how we manage our waste. The document sets out the actions that will be taken in the first stage to carry us through to 2027. To complement this strategy there is also the 'NSW Plastics Plan and the NSW Waste and Sustainable Materials Strategy: A guide to future infrastructure needs'.

New South Wales Plastics Action Plan

The Plastics Plan sets out the first six actions that will be taken to achieve the long term outcomes identified through the discussion paper process. There are four long term outcomes:

  1. Outcome 1 – Reduce plastic waste generation
  2. Outcome 2 – Make the most of our plastics resources
  3. Outcome 3 – Reduce plastic leakage
  4. Outcome 4 – Improving our understanding of the future of plastics

NSW Circular Economy Policy Statement -Too Good To Waste (2019)

The NSW Circular Economy Policy Statement provides a framework for implementing initiatives throughout the product life cycle, from design, manufacturing, and retail to end-of-life-disposal. These initiatives will promote long-lasting design, maintenance and repair, re-use, sharing, transforming products into services, remanufacturing, and recycling. NSW’s circular economy principles capture the intent of the National Waste Policy principles.

The transition toward a circular economy will focus on seven key principles, one of these being fostering behaviour change through education and engagement. This principle aims to engage with communities and businesses to communicate the benefit of a circular economy and how circular activities can be implemented at the local level.

NSW Energy from Waste Policy Statement (2021)

The NSW Energy from Waste Policy Statement sets out the policy framework and overarching criteria that apply to facilities in NSW proposing to thermally treat waste or waste-derived materials for the recovery of energy.

Regional - working together across Macarthur

Macarthur Strategic Waste Alliance (MSWA)

The Macarthur Strategic Waste Alliance was formed in 2018 following the dissolution of the entity formerly known as the Macarthur Regional Organisation of Councils (MACROC). The Alliance is an agreement between the councils of Campbelltown, Camden, Wollondilly and Penrith to support and promote a regional approach to waste and recycling management issues, and is currently staffed by a Regional Coordinator (funded by the NSW EPA).

The MSWA Waste and Resource Recovery Strategy 2017-2021

The MSWA Waste and Resource Recovery Strategy 2017-2021 outlines the Macarthur Councils’ current position and sets out a strategic approach to managing the Region’s waste into the future.

The councils identified ten future opportunities to assist in achieving key regional and state targets, one of which was education and engagement. The development of a regional education strategy on the three-bin system was proposed to address and reduce contamination rates and also prioritise MUDs and tenanted properties. The details of this regional education campaign are yet to be finalised however, it is anticipated that there will be strategic alignment with the 'Waste and Resource Recovery Education Strategy 2021-24' to ensure consistency of messaging across the region.