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Australia Institute finds EU-style levy on plastic packaging waste could raise AUS$1.5B annually

#Australia Institute finds EU-style levy on plastic packaging waste could raise AUS$1.5B annually

15 Jan 2024 — Research from the Australia Institute, a public policy think tank, shows an EU-style tax on plastic packaging could raise nearly AUS$1.5 billion (US$1 billion) annually for the country.

Analysis shows the federal government could raise AUS$1,300 per ton (~US$870) of virgin 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,” says the Australia Institute’s Circular Economy & Waste Program director Nina Gbor.

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

“If recycling were 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 landfills and oceans.”

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

Plastic pollution is a major cause of environmental and human health damage in Australia.Public backing
An EU levy introduced in 2021 requires member states to pay €800 per ton (US$876) of unrecycled plastic packaging waste.

That figure would equate to AUS$1,300 per ton, and with Australians using almost 1.2 million tons of virgin plastic packaging waste each year, the federal government could raise at least AUS$1.46 billion (~US$1 billion) through a user-pays levy, according to the institute.

The researchers also polled 1,002 people on their opinions on crackdown measures on plastic waste. Of the people surveyed, 85% said they support legislated waste reduction targets for producers, suppliers and retailers.

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

“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,” says Gbor.

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

Australia’s plastic waste problem
The institute highlights that Australians consume roughly 3.8 million tons of plastic each year — equivalent to 72 Sydney Harbour Bridges. By 2049-50, this is expected to rise to 9.7 million tons.

Australia has a target of 20% recycled content in new plastic packaging and hopes to recover 70% of all plastic packaging by 2025. However, only 14% of Australia’s plastic waste is recovered through recycling, composting or by being turned into energy, falling from 18% in 2008.

In January 2023, Australia’s National Waste Policy Action Plan set targets of recycling or reusing 80% of the country’s waste by 2030. The plan covers all forms of waste across sectors, from food to “business waste.”

The Australian government set a 70% recycling plastic target by 2025 and has increased the goal by 10% for 2030.

Edited by Louis Gore-Langton

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