Australia has made an historic commitment to cut plastic waste

9 June 2023


Strict new government rules aimed at cutting waste and boosting recycling will have a major impact on Australia’s plastic pollution crisis, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature-Australia.

The historic commitment was announced by Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek following a national meeting of environment ministers today.

The new rules include mandatory packaging design standards and targets that will make manufacturers and retailers responsible for reducing, reusing and recycling their plastic packaging, including soft plastics.

“This is a major step forward in Australia’s war on plastic waste,” said Kate Noble, WWF-Australia’s No Plastics in Nature Policy Manager.

“It’s a commitment that will be welcomed by Australians who’ve been so disappointed by the collapse of our soft plastic recycling scheme.”

Research that Ipsos conducted for WWF and the Plastic Free Foundation found that 86% of Australians want manufacturers and retailers to be responsible for reducing, reusing and recycling their plastic packaging.

“It’s heartening to see governments coming together to finally take action on this issue and listen to Australians who’ve made it very clear they want companies to take responsibility for the packaging and waste they produce,” said Ms Noble.

“WWF has been calling for major reform to reduce the amount of plastic we use and to ensure what we do need is designed for reuse and recycling. Moving from voluntary targets and guidelines into clear rules and responsibilities is a really important step."

“These rules will cover more than a million tonnes of plastic packaging placed on the market each year, as well as paper, glass and cardboard packaging."

“We use more than half a million tonnes of soft plastic packaging every year, and it’s the most challenging type of plastic to recycle. When it ends up in the environment, it becomes deadly to wildlife."

“Keeping this plastic in the economy and out of nature is critical, and packaging rules will help to achieve that. But to really drive change, they should include mandatory reduction and re-use targets as well as design and recycling requirements."

“Importantly, these rules will also apply to all packaging materials, not just plastic, which should help ensure that we’re not creating more issues by simply shifting the problem elsewhere."

“It’s vital that these changes help drive reduction of virgin material use – not just plastics – as part of Australia’s shift towards a circular economy that prioritises getting rid of unnecessary packaging, scaling up re-use and refill systems, and recycling the rest.”

Australians can learn more about the problem of plastic pollution and what they can do to help here: