Media Releases | 14th Apr, 2004

Green groups demand action on packaging waste

Thursday, 15 April 2004

Environment groups are calling on State and Federal Environment Ministers to set mandatory industry targets to cut packaging waste, as part of the revamped National Packaging Covenant. If it can’t be radically overhauled it should be dumped, the groups said.

The Environment Protection and Heritage Council, which includes all State and Federal Environment Ministers, will meet tomorrow (Friday) to decide the future of the voluntary National Packaging Covenant which is due to expire in August.

“The National Packaging Covenant has been around for five years now and has achieved nothing – it’s a national disgrace that mountains of packaging waste and litter continues to pollute our environment.” says Suzie Brown, Environment Victoria’s Sustainable Consumption campaigner.

“We want to see industry-wide targets to ensure all parts of industry – packaging manufacturers, brandowners and retailers – are working towards the same environmental goals: reducing litter and landfill waste and increasing recycling.”

Targets should include reduction in packaging waste to landfill, increase in recyclability of packaging, reduction in packaging litter, lightweighting of packaging, and recycling targets for specific materials such as plastics, aluminium, steel or paper.

While the aim of the original Packaging Covenant was to reduce the environmental impact of consumer packaging, no specific objectives were set, leaving industry signatories to decide their own goals.

“The Federal Government has set no direction for industry to solve the environmental problems of packaging – the Covenant has just been a tick-the-box exercise for many companies’ who signed on,” said Jeff Angel, Total Environment Centre’s Executive Director. “This is the last chance. If it can’t be quickly made effective, then it should be dumped.”

Many European countries have targets for reducing packaging waste, for example France has a target of 75% recovery of packaging by 2003.

In Australia packaging makes up around 25% of household waste, while it is estimated that 75% of litter is consumer packaging such as plastic bags, beverage containers and food wrappers.