Australia has ambitious targets to increase waste recovery and recycling rates. By 2030, Australia is aiming for an 80% average resource recovery rate from all waste streams.
This equates to an extra 15 million tonnes of material every year (Source: National Waste Policy Action Plan 2022).
Investors can take advantage of these important opportunities to help develop advanced processing technologies and infrastructure.
- strong domestic demand thanks to our:
- Waste Export Bans
- recovery and recycling targets.
- a collaborative R&D environment to support innovation and increase resource recovery.
- government grants and incentives.
- space and natural resources to power recycling and manufacturing facilities.
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Strong government recycling commitment
Governments at all levels in Australia have signed up to an ambitious joint national plan to increase waste recovery and recycling rates.
- progressively stopping the export of key waste streams - plastic, paper, glass, and tyres – from 2021 to 2024. It means waste must be processed onshore by 2024.
- increasing the resource recovery rate to 80 per cent by 2030.
- halving food waste sent to landfill by 2030.
- national packaging targets for industry:
- 100 per cent of packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.
- 70 per cent of plastic packaging to be recycled or composted by 2025; and
- 50 per cent of packaging to be using recycled materials by 2025.
- phasing out problematic and unnecessary single-use plastic packaging by 2025.
Australia is committed to creating onshore capacity and keeping value-added materials in our economy. To meet these targets, local processing and recycling capacity must increase substantially – creating opportunities for investors.
The Australian Government is also increasing its purchase of products with recycled content to generate demand for recycled materials.
E-waste recycling also represents a key unmet need in Australia.
The average Australian produced 20kg of e-waste in 2019, compared with the global average of 7kg. By 2030, Australia’s e-waste generation is projected to rise by nearly 30% to 657,000 tonnes, up from 511,000 tonnes in 2019 (Australian Government 2023).
We recover only one third of the total value of the materials in the e-waste we generate, with A$430 million worth ending up in landfill each year. Facilities needed include recovery plants for key waste streams including lithium-ion batteries, mobile phones, small household appliances, circuit boards and solar panels.
The Australian Government is consulting with industry to develop a regulatory product stewardship scheme for small electrical and electronic equipment and solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. It intends to regulate these categories of e-waste by June 2025.
Driving global circular markets
Australia is committed to working with international partners to promote a global circular economy and preserve our environment. These efforts are helping drive global markets for recycled products and ensure products imported into Australia can be recycled or repurposed, particularly in plastics.
- Australia joined the Clean Seas campaign in 2018, pledging to recycle or compost 70% of all plastic packaging by 2025.
- Australia was among 200 nearly nations who, at the United Nations Environment Assembly in Nairobi in March 2022, agreed to negotiate a legally binding plastics treaty by 2024.
- Australia in November 2022 joined the High Ambition Coalition to End Plastic Pollution, a group of 59 countries committed to eradicating plastic litter by 2040.
Australia signed the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment in November 2022. It brings together more than 500 signatories, including governments and industry, to work towards a circular economy where 100 per cent of plastic packaging is recyclable, reusable or compostable.
“I’m excited about the economic opportunities of a circular economy. Australia can be a global leader in technology, innovation, design, materials and processes.”
- Minister for the Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek MP
- Australia generated an estimated 75.8 million tonnes of waste in 2020/21, equivalent to almost 3 tonnes per person (National Waste Report 2022).
- Australia’s resource recovery rate in 2020-21 was 63 per cent. The rate is trending upwards, from 50 per cent in 2006–07 and 61 per cent in 2016–17 (National Waste Action Plan 2022).
- The Australian recycling industry contributed almost A$19 billion to the Australian economy in 2021-22 (Australian Council of Recycling 2023).
- A future circular economy in just three areas – food, transport and the built environment – could create an economic benefit to Australia of A$23 billion in GDP by 2025. (Source: KPMG 2020).
- Overall, a 2021 report by PwC says a circular economy model for Australia could generate A$1,860 billion in direct economic benefits over 20 years and save 165 million tonnes of CO2 per year by 2040.
- E-waste transformation presents an important opportunity for growth. Currently Australia has the world’s highest e-waste generation per capita – and only 17.5 per cent of e-waste is collected and recycled each year.
- Australians generated 2.63 million tonnes of plastic waste in 2020-21. The recovery rate for plastics was about 13 per cent (2022 National Waste Report). Of the 351,000 tonnes recovered in 2020-21, only 124,000 tonnes were locally processed.
- Local processing capacity must increase by 150 per cent to make sure previously exported plastic waste does not end up in landfill (Source: CSIRO. National Circular Economy Roadmap 2021).
- Australia is missing out on an estimated A$419 million of economic value each year by not recovering all PET and HDPE plastics (National Plastics Plan 2021).
Video: Circular economy in Australia
Find out how Australia is reducing our waste and putting valuable recycled materials to work.
Incentives, grants and support
There’s strong support for pioneers who are designing for the future and disrupting the way we extract, manufacture, reuse and recycle resources and products.
- The government has committed to establishing a A$15 billion National Reconstruction Fund, which will support co-investments in priority areas including advanced manufacturing, value-add in resources and renewables and low emission technologies.
- The A$26 million National Product Stewardship Investment Fund is increasing the number of industry-led product stewardship schemes in Australia and the recycling rates of existing schemes. For example, the Australian Fashion Council used its A$1 million award to develop and launch a National Clothing Product Stewardship Scheme in 2023. The scheme, which is due to begin operating in July 2024, aims to improve the design, recovery, reuse and recycling of textiles.
- The Australia Government’s Recycling Modernisation Fund has invested A$250 million to support investment in new infrastructure to sort, process and remanufacture materials. The A$60m plastics technology stream, announced in 2022, targets hard-to-recycle plastics. Co-funded grants of between A$1 million and A$20 million are available to support new or upgraded recycling infrastructure.
- The Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC), Australia’s green bank, invests in the recycling industry. It committed more than A$328 million to the sector from 2012 to 2023.
- The Australian Government funds Cooperative Research Centres Projects (CRC-P) Grants for collaborative projects to develop new technologies, products, and services. In 2023, it expects to award A$40m to SMEs in round 15, which has a particular focus on the circular economy. For example, the fund recently supported research into a process to recycle wind turbine blades.
- A Circular Economy Ministerial Advisory Group was set up in 2023 to advise government on the opportunities and challenges in making the transition to a circular economy by 2030. The Australian, state and territory environment ministers in June 2023 committed to lead development of a national framework to direct Australia’s transition to a circular economy, informed by the group.
- Various regions of Australia offer different incentives. For example, the Victorian Government’s circular economy policy, Recycling Victoria: a new economy, includes investment of over A$380 million. In South Australia, Green Industries SA offers a suite of grants to drive the shift to the circular economy, including market development grants and recycling infrastructure grants.
- Australia’s National Plastics Plan outlines our approach to increase plastic recycling, find alternatives and reduce environmental impact. It outlines how the Australian Government is investing in new plastic technologies and data systems to track how plastic flows through our economy. This includes our national science agency CSIROs’ National Circular Economy Roadmap 2021 to inform future decisions on investment, policy development and research priorities.
- The Australian Government is developing a brand and labelling scheme, "ReMade in Australia", for verified Australian made recycled content products.
- Australian, state and territory environment ministers met in June 2023 and agreed to put in place a mandatory packaging design scheme. It will require packaging to be designed so it can be recovered, reused, recycled and reprocessed. This scheme will also regulate out harmful chemicals and other contaminants in packaging. The Australian Government supports innovation through a competitive research and development tax incentive.
- The Australian Tax Office’s New Investment Engagement Service gives tailored guidance on tax issues to businesses planning significant new investments in Australia.
Join our thriving ecosystem
Australia’s circular economy sector is supported by a highly collaborative R&D environment.
- Home to five of the world’s top 200 institutions for materials science, according to the Nature Index 2021: the University of New South Wales; the University of Queensland; Monash University; the University of Melbourne; and the University of Woolongong.
- Our national science agency CSIRO operates an Ending Plastic Waste Mission, bringing together government, university and industry. It aims to transform the way Australia makes, uses, recycles, and disposes of plastics. It is targeting an 80 per cent reduction in plastic waste entering the Australian environment by 2030.
- CSIRO also has vast expertise in materials research, from early development to testing, scaling up and designing manufacturing processes. Its facilities include Lab22 Innovation Centre for Additive Manufacturing, FloWorks Centre for Industrial Flow Chemistry, the Biomedical Materials Translational Facility and the joint Swinburne CSIRO Industry 4.0 Testlab in Composite Additive Manufacturing. Other materials include the UNSW Centre for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology (SMaRT@UNSW).
- Circular Plastics Australia operate plastics recycling facilities in Victoria and NSW, involving partners Cleanaway, Asahi Beverages, Pact Group and Coca-Cola Europacific Partners (CCEP). Other companies innovating in the circular economy space include Bingo Industries and Tyrecycle. Major Australian companies with circular economy ambitions include Coles, Woolworths and Sanitarium.
- The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) is a not-for-profit organization promoting the development of a national circular economy for packaging in Australia. It works with governments and businesses across the packaging value chain. This includes facilitating the delivery of Australia’s 2025 National Packaging Targets.
- The Circular Economy Business Innovation Centre in Victoria, aims to support businesses in that state to innovate, adopt and implement circular economy opportunities and business models.
- The Australian Circular Economy Hub (ACE Hub) provides tools and education to help implement circularity.
- Pact Group entered into a partnership with major Australian retailer Woolworths Group in 2022 to supply recycled packaging for Woolworths Own Brand products. Pact will source recycled PET and HDPE resin from its recycling facilities in Australia to manufacture new food and beverage packaging for the retailer. It’s the largest partnership of its kind in retail Australia.
- US headquartered snacks company Mondelēz International and global packaging company Amcor are investing in an Australian advanced recycling technology pioneer. The investments will help Licella progress construction of one of the first advanced recycling facilities in Australia. Through Amcor, Mondelēz International will have access to recycled content from this site to meet much of its Australian soft plastic packaging needs.
- US waste solutions provider Brightmark is building an A$260m advanced plastics renewal facility in Australia. The facility will be the largest of its type outside the US.
- Innovative Australian start-up Blocktexx opened the country’s first large-scale textile recycling facility in the northern state of Queensland in early 2023. The company’s proprietary technology can break down and separate blends of cotton and polyester fibres back into their raw materials.