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Plastic packaging waste tax could raise billions

The Australia Institute Media Release

New research from the Australia Institute shows a European Union-style tax on plastic packaging could raise nearly $1.5 billion each year.

The analysis finds the federal government could raise $1,300 per tonne of ‘virgin’ or un-recycled plastic through a levy on businesses that import or manufacture plastic packaging.

“Australia is facing a growing tsunami of plastic waste and is expected to miss every recycling target it has set,” the Australia Institute’s Circular Economy & Waste Program Director Nina Gbor said.

“We’re recovering less than a fifth of the plastic waste used each year, with consumption expected to more than double to nearly 10 billion tonnes by 2050.

“If recycling was the solution to the plastic waste crisis, it would have been solved by now. Instead, it just encourages the production and consumption of even more waste that is choking our landfill and oceans.

“Unless we drastically reduce or gradually phase out plastics altogether, in favour of compostable materials, this plastic waste problem will continue to grow.”

An EU levy introduced in 2021 requires member states to pay €800 per tonne of plastic packaging waste that is not recycled.

In Australian dollars, that equates to $1,300 per tonne. Given Australians go through 1.121 million tonnes of ‘virgin’ plastic packaging waste a year, the federal government could raise $1.46 billion through a user-pays levy.

Voters polled by the Australia Institute backed stronger measures to crack down on plastic waste. Of the 1,002 people surveyed, 85% support legislated waste reduction targets for producers, suppliers and retailers.

A similar proportion back laws requiring plastic products to contain recycled material, while 78% endorse a ban on plastics that cannot be recycled in the curbside bin.

“We know that Australians support tougher action to curb plastic waste, and that taxes and schemes requiring producers to fund the collection and recycling of plastic they produce are working overseas,” Ms Gbor said.

“Australia’s plastic consumption is increasing, not falling. The government needed to act yesterday and should start by following the EU’s lead.”

Key facts:

  • Australians consume 3.8 million tonnes of plastic each year, equivalent to 72 Sydney Harbour Bridges. By 2049-50, this is expected to rise to 9.7 million tonnes.
  • Just 14 per cent of Australia’s plastic waste is recovered through recycling, composting or by being turned into energy, falling from 18 per cent in 2008.
  • Australia has a target of 20 per cent of recycled content in new plastic packaging, and to recover 70 per cent of all plastic packaging, by 2025.


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  1. andyfiftysix

    It’s not a hard one to solve but there must be intent.
    It costs a fraction of a cent to make a plastic bag but dollars to recycle.
    Make those who make the bag pay.

    Recycling has got to be seen as net gain NOT a cost. Governments that charge a small fortune to take rubbish should be taken to task. Rubbish recycling centres should be free to the general public and actually pay to receive it too. The manufacturers should be made to pay to clean up their rubbish.

    Same as bottle collection, if 5c per unit recycles 20%, 10c recycles 40%, increase the fucker till you get 80%. Be fucking serious about it.

    If business is only going to respond when the blow touch is applied, I say turn the heat up. If your going to make something we all know will become trash, you should be paying to clean up too.

    Recycling does work with the right incentives, it fails when your half arsed about it.

  2. New England Cocky

    @ andyfiftysix: Agreed. As a kid we made pocket money collecting glass bottle on the beach and returning them to the shop for the deposits.

    But will the under-caring pollies do anything that benefits mere Australian voters?

  3. Phil Pryor

    The promiscuousness of corporate practice is an extension of the old establishment, which did what it effing well liked, brainless and heartless, let alone uncaring and indecent. Like the bastardry and disease, the infection and indignity of That, the floggers of things turn their backs, know nothing, care less. Plastics, fumes, toxicity, endangering, extinctions, environmental criminality, ah well, let’s donate more to dickhead dills like P Duckwit-Futton to obfuscate, tantrumise, loudmouth, camouflage, prevaricate…

  4. Caz

    The public does not ” consume” plastic. It is forced upon us; consumers should have a choice .
    As a responsible recycler of food waste and accepted recycled waste, the only items in my red bin are 80% of plastic and the volume is disturbing when I am a one person household. The other 20% can be cardboard containers lined with foil, prescription tablets in mixed. Plastic and foil, toothpaste tube, light bulbs and the odd broken glass.
    I have been tempted to wrap up a week’s supply of plastic and take around to Tanya’s office.
    People will not recycle correctly, sometimes out of pure bloody mindedness. In our building with three types of bins within arms length you will find they are a complete mix.
    So yes bring on a plastic tax definitely and start putting a levy on people who do not sort their rubbish.

  5. Truth Teller

    Agree wholeheartedly with the previous comments. However, there is hope. I was pleasantly surprised by some creative packaging in the last week. So I’d like to pass on the details.

    I recently had the need to replace a worn-out, 12 year old monochrome laser printer at my residence. Went online, did lots of research (Hint – steer clear of HP printers. They require you to be online at all times, just to enable you to use their printer).

    Anyway, eventually went online and settled on a lovely Brother monochrome laser printer – prints both sides, easy to hook up, etc, etc. When the boxed up printer arrived a few days later, I opened the box to remove the printer.

    Lo and behold, in place of what would normally be 4 large, intricately cut, polystyrene blocks to protect the printer from damage, were actually 4 beautifully designed, intricately formed cardboard supports instead. So it is possible for responsible companies to do away with polluting packaging.

    I only wish I could nominate them for an award. And, very happy with the printer. 🙂

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