National Plastic Summit 2020 – Summary

by Mar 5, 2020

Workshop: Plastics in the Economy, speakers: Peter Bury, Damien Giurco, Bronwyn Laycock, Stephen Scherer





National Plastic Summit consisted of 200 selected delegates from Australian industry, research, businesses and plastic related fields. 5 working groups were established to address how Australia can move forward to create a thriving and sustainable recycling industry and circular economies.

Five working groups included:

  1. Addressing plastics at its source
  2. Plastics and our daily life
  3. The Plastics revolution
  4. Plastics in the economy
  5. Plastics in our oceans and waterways

Main conclusions from Working groups

Key points:

1.   Addressing plastics at its source

  • Design of products should be acknowledged for full life cycle
  • Consumer education is important
  • Demand for recycled plastic material is high, however supply is difficult

2.  Plastics and our daily life

  • ‘Bigger is better’, scaling of more recycling facilities is important to process high quantities
  • ‘Buy it and they will come’, demand creates a market for products
  • ‘Keep it simple stupid’, standardization of processes is more practical and efficient
  • ‘Show me the money’, where should the money come from to support industry? Waste levy, other?
  • ‘Play with the tensions between voluntary frameworks, industry and government frameworks’.

3.  The Plastic Revolution

  • The technology for resource recovery in Australia is available
  • It is a systems problem, so it is a systems solution
  • A shift from ‘cost-based’ systems to a ‘value-based’ system in required, directed through national community education
  • Don’t penalize, create aspirational values-rewards, incentive based
  • Make it easier to do business in Australia, to avoid valley of death
  • Harmonize collection systems, call out green-washing and undertake full life-assessments for plastic products

4.  Plastics in the Economy

  • Create a vision hierarchy of best practice
  • Look at legislation (or voluntary incentives) of 30% recycled content to stimulate resource recovery economy
  • Create new modes of collaboration between industry and research
  • Establish a Growth Centre based on secondary materials and circular economy
  • De-risk the recycling industry

5.  Plastics in our oceans and waterways

  • Education is key
  • Problematic plastics such as PVC and PS should be phased out of single-use plastics
  • Government assistance for infrastructure is required, eg. Supporting councils to maintain stormwater drains and traps
  • Previous Senate inquires, including ‘Toxic tide’ (2016) and ‘Waste and Recycling Industry’ (2018) need to be followed through
  • At source reduction of microfibres should be addressed
  • Reduction of plastics is vital to minimize consumption
  • Damage from ghost nets in the ocean has serious impact, particularly in northern regions


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