Setting design standards to limit the impact of harmful plastics
The NSW Government will lead the nation in establishing a new legislative framework to set design standards that can tackle harmful and problematic plastics. The first design standard will phase out microbeads in certain personal care items from 1 November 2022..
Microbeads are used in a variety of products ranging from beauty products, paints, industrial detergents, cleaning products, as well as products used in the oil and gas industry. Microbeads enter our waterways through our drains, causing harm to wildlife and the environment.
Future design standards could be made under the new legislation to address other issues. Any future design standards would be subject to analysis of the environmental and economic impacts, consideration of any technical or performance requirements and extensive consultation with stakeholders. We will also continue to work with the federal and other state governments and territories to make sure there is a uniform approach where possible.
Making producers and brand owners of plastic packaging more responsible
The Australian packaging industry, through the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO), has committed to a range of voluntary national targets. It aims to phase out problematic and unnecessary single-use packaging by 2025. To do this, the industry will:
- use an average of 20% recycled content in plastic packaging
- ensure all packaging is recyclable or reusable
- recover 70% of all plastic packaging.
While some companies have been leading the way, overall industry progress has been slow and more action is needed. We will work closely with the federal government and APCO to hold industry to account on the commitments they have made.
In the meantime, we will require the packaging industry to improve reporting to the NSW Government on its progress against the voluntary targets. We will review progress in three years (from release of the plan) and if industry has not taken sufficient action, we will consider mandating targets or design standards to address the issues.
We will also level the playing field for packaging producers by requiring all eligible, non-APCO member businesses to also meet the national targets.
Action 2: Accelerate the transition to better plastic products
Many manufacturers, retailers and builders have started to shift away from plastic or to use plastic that is more easily recycled. Consumers are demanding that everyday items be plastic-free.
This transition is good for our environment and economy because it reduces plastic litter and the amount of plastic we send to landfill. It also keeps materials in the economy for longer. However, changing production processes and using new materials can be costly at first and may require investment.
We have established a $10 million Circular Materials Fund to help producers change sooner. The fund will help businesses such as manufacturers, builders and retailers with projects that:
- reduce the use of virgin plastic
- reduce the use of hard-to-recycle plastics
- increase the use of recycled plastic in products
- bring together producers, end users and the resource recovery sector.
These partnerships will ensure businesses make better decisions about the lifecycle of products from the start.