The head of Australia's largest plastic packaging company wants the federal government to mandate a percentage of recycled content for plastic products as well as tax manufacturers that fail to meet the target.
Sanjay Dayal, CEO and managing director of Melbourne-based, publicly listed Pact Group Ltd., told Plastics News the Australian government "needs to introduce regulations with a combination of financial penalties for those that don't comply and incentives for those that do."
He said Australia's 2025 national packaging targets "will not be achieved, particularly for plastics, which is disappointing. These targets are voluntary so incentive to act is based on company willingness."
The voluntary targets were set by an industry-led group, the Australian Packaging Covenant Organization. Between 2017 and July 2021, according to statistics on APCO's website, 72 brand owners ceased to be APCO members for "noncompliance."
The targets are to achieve 100 percent reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging; 70 percent of plastic packaging being recycled or composted; 50 percent of average recycled content included in packaging; and the phase out of problematic and unnecessary single-use plastics packaging by 2025.
"Strict packaging design requirements or standards would force producers and brand owners to take responsibility for their products and grow the [domestic] recycling industry," Dayal said.
"When industry as a whole commits to making change, we all stand to gain from lower costs, more reliable supply, and a boost in confidence from increasingly conscious consumers," he added.
Dayal is urging the Australian government to model regulatory frameworks in place in Europe and the U.S. "A mandated push will ensure businesses who are lagging are incentivized to take the necessary steps to catch up to industry leaders," he told PN.
Jeff Angel, director of the Sydney-based Boomerang Alliance, a group of 55 environmental groups, has backed Dayal's call. Asked whether Australia should follow the European Union lead and mandate a percentage of recycled content for all plastic products, he said: "Absolutely, it's the economic underpinning for a sustainable reprocessing sector. If producers don't meet the recycled-content standard, they should be fined or taxed."
Angel wasn't confident Dayal would get support from other plastic product manufacturers, saying: "Some might. Others are still coming to grips with the public and political cost of failed voluntary schemes like APCO. But we need business leaders like Sanjay to push their sector along because the plastics industry is losing its social license to operate."