Plastic has been a revolutionary material. It allows us to mass-produce lightweight products and packaging cheaply. Plastic makes our lives convenient. But plastic litter is also one of the most insidious forms of pollution. Around 80% of marine litter is plastic. It is estimated that by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by weight. We need to act now to identify and stop using the plastics that we can’t manage effectively.
Minister Sussan Ley hosted the National Plastics Summit in Canberra on March 2, 2020.
The one-day forum convened a cross-sector of over 200 senior individuals from government, industry and community sectors. The Summit showcased and identified new solutions to the plastic waste challenge and will mobilise further action from governments, industry and non-government organisations. The Summit also identified new opportunities to directly address targets under the National Waste Policy Action Plan.
Ideas and solutions generated at the National Plastics Summit will be used to inform the National Plastic Plan, which the Australian Government has committed to delivering by end 2020.
At the Summit several key announcements were made by industry on how they will help address the plastic challenge:
- the Pact Group announced it will invest $500 million in facilities, research and technology to increase the use of sustainable packaging. The result will be that Pact will have 30 per cent recycled content across its product portfolio by 2025 and keep nearly two billion plastic containers out of landfill.
- McDonald’s will phase out plastic cutlery by the end of 2020, preventing 585 tonnes of plastic waste each year. This is in addition to McDonald’s previous commitment to phase out 500 million straws every year and takes their total annual plastic reduction to 860 tonnes.
- Nestlé will partner with waste management company IQ Renew in a trial that will see soft plastics collected and recycled from over 100,000 homes, diverting approximately 750 tonnes of soft plastic otherwise headed for landfill.
Find out more about the pledges
- Industry pledges made at the Summit (PDF - 1.67 MB)
- Industry pledges made at the Summit (DOCX - 116.37 KB)
A group of school students in years 5 and 6 from around Australia also participated in the Summit. Two student representatives from each state and territory, selected on the basis of their waste and recycling knowledge via a merit process with assistance from Scouts Australia, attended.
Students attended the opening of the Summit at Parliament House before attending the ‘Student Summit’ component at the Museum of Australian Democracy (MoAD) in the historic House of Representatives Chamber at Old Parliament House. Students heard from industry experts including Ryan Lungu (Executive Director - Canberra Environment Centre), Pierre Pienaar (Education Director, Australian Institute of Packaging) and Barry Cosier (Director, Sustainability Australian Food and Grocery Council).
Each student created a handmade pledge of their personal commitment to reducing their soft plastics use and presented these to the Minister for the Environment, the Hon Sussan Ley, and the Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environment Management, the Hon Trevor Evans.
Other activities at MoAD included learning how to make individual changes about reducing consumption of single-use plastics, and a visit from Their Excellencies the Governor-General, David Hurley, and Mrs Linda Hurley.
Views from the public
The public were invited to complete a short survey ahead of the National Plastic Summit to nominate the key concerns and ideas they wanted the Summit to consider.
A summary word-cloud of survey submissions was presented at the Summit, with further analysis of survey submissions to follow.
- Joint media release: National Plastics Summit signals changes for plastic recycling
- Minister Ley media release: $500 million from Pact Group to kickstart circular economy
- Waste export ban
- National Waste Policy Action Plan 2019
- National Waste Policy 2018