Joint Media Release: National Plastics Summit signals changes for plastic recycling

2 March 2020

The Hon Sussan Ley MP, Minister for the Environment
The Hon Trevor Evans MP, Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environmental Management
The Hon Warren Entsch, Special Envoy for the Great Barrier Reef


Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley and the Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environmental Management Trevor Evans today congratulated companies and Students for stepping up with key commitments at the closing of the first ever National Plastics Summit.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison opened the Summit, telling major retailers, recyclers, industry groups researchers and students that Australia needs to take responsibility for its plastic waste and has foreshadowed further budget announcements to encourage demand for recycled products and to expand industry capability.

Minister Ley stressed the government’s commitment to fixing Australia’s plastic waste problem and the importance of industry working with government and consumers while Assistant Minister Evans highlighted the economic opportunities and the fact the recycling industry was ready to step up to improve recycling rates.

Australia’s largest manufacturer of rigid plastics, Pact Group, announced a $500 million investment in existing and new facilities for sustainable packaging, re-use and recycling initiatives over the next five years.

Retail giant Coles announced $430,000 in new funding for REDcycle to treble the amount of soft based plastic that it collects, while Nestlé will partner with waste management company IQ Renew in a trial that will see soft plastics collected from more than 100,000 homes, diverting tonnes of soft plastic otherwise headed for landfill.

McDonalds has announced the phasing out of 585 tonnes of single use plastic by removing plastic knives and forks from stores by the end of the year, while Australia Post has pledged to make all plastic postage bags out of recycled material by December 2020.

Other organisations making major commitments included APCO, Kmart, CleanAway, Amcor, Pepsico, Qantas, Licella, Unilver, IQ Renew, Plastics Forests and Dairy Australia.

In Old Parliament House, children at the National Plastics Students Summit received a visit from the Governor General and considered ways individual households can reduce their plastic consumption, presenting their findings to the full Summit.

“We have had some amazing students who have already at a young age made outstanding contributions in raising awareness on these issues,” Minister Ley said.

“This summit has brought together a broad range of ideas and commitment and it has put plastic waste firmly on the national agenda.”

Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environmental Management, Trevor Evans, said today’s summit was another important step in working with industry to drive long-term practical outcomes such as increasing Australia’s recycling rates and domestic reprocessing capabilities.

“We are looking towards fundamentally changing the way we think about and manage our waste, and creating new markets for recycled products,” Mr Evans said.

“This transformation towards a circular economy will both create jobs and help our environment”.

Special Envoy for the Great Barrier Reef the Hon Warren Entsch said that the Student’s summit was an important highlight as he accompanied eleven-year-old Cairns student Molly Steer who led a national campaign against plastic straws.

“These kids are the ones we have to take note of, they are the leaders of our future,” he said.

Collectively, these commitments will save hundreds of tonnes of plastic from going to landfill each year and will assist in growing and transforming Australia’s recycling and waste management industry as we take responsibility for our own waste.

In closing the Summit, Minister Ley congratulated industry for their ongoing commitment to reducing the environmental impacts of waste plastics and making fundamental changes to their business operations to help transition Australia to a circular economy by turning waste into a resource.

Key industry pledges made as part of the Summit were: 

  • $500 million from the Pact Group in sustainable packaging, reuse and recycling initiatives that will create new jobs. 
  • Nestlé and Australian recycler iQ Renew delivering a trial of soft plastic kerbside collection that will see soft plastics collected from over 100,000 homes processing 750 tonnes of the material. Nestlé also committed to reducing its use of virgin plastic by one third by 2025 and committed to procure globally AUD$2.3billion worth of recycled food grade plastic.
  • McDonalds to remove 585 tonnes of plastic cutlery from their Australian stores by the end of the year on top of its previous commitment to removing 500 million plastic straws.
  • PepsiCo has pledged $650,000 to support Greening the Green, a partnership with Clean Up Australia, REDcycle and Replas. The three-year national program aims to educate consumers on soft plastic recovery and soft plastic recycling.
  • Cleanaway, Pact and Asahi have announced details of their plastic pelletising facility in Albury/Wodonga processing approximately 28,000 tonnes (900 million bottles) per year. 
  • QANTAS is removing 100 million single-use plastic items, such as cups, cutlery and meal boxes by end 2020 replacing them with compostable items.
  • Unilever will halve the amount of virgin plastic it uses by buying more recycled plastic and reducing the amount of plastic it uses in its packaging by more than 100,000 tonnes.
  • Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation will lead the development of the ANZPAC Plastic Pact, a new program within the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Global Plastics Pact Network. ANZPAC will provide the significant intervention required to meet Australia’s national plastic packaging target - that 70% of all plastic packaging will be recycled or composted by 2025.