We often hear politicians and the media discussing the need for reusable resources, environmentally friendly packaging and the detrimental effects that waste is having on our environment.
But what laws and regulations are actually in place to ensure the minimisation and effective disposal of waste across the nation?
There has been an evident shift in the approach towards waste disposal. With major ramifications across the nation – particularly pertaining to packaging and the way in which the environment is affected – organisations and government officials have pursued a shared responsibility approach to ensure that the harm subsides.
The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation is a co-regulatory, not for profit organisation established in 1999 which has developed the Australian Packaging Covenant. It helps organisations make eco-friendly choices and highlights the necessity for governments and businesses to work together in reducing environmental impacts.
The covenant is a voluntary scheme. This provides businesses, who are bound by state legislation (NSW Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 and Protection of the Environment Operations (Waste) Regulation 2014) the choice to follow state legislation or opt to be a member.
The covenant applies to businesses in a supply chain that are consumers of packaging or packaged products that have an annual turnover of $5 million or more. These businesses are required to choose between attaining a membership to APCO and signatory to the covenant, or meeting the compliance requirements under the National Environmental Protection (Used Packaging Materials) Measure 2011. The principles, goals and aims of these legislative instruments are aligned with the focus of improving environmental sustainability and longevity.
Businesses joining the covenant are provided with a framework and resources on how to implement sustainable design procedures, appropriate recycling initiatives and reduce waste becoming landfill. The key aims of the covenant itself are to optimise the recovery of consumer packaging by enabling materials to be more readily recycled and developing initiatives that are proactive in preventing packaging from entering the environment.
Affiliation to APCO and the covenant also has a wide range of obligations. Some of these include, assisting in responding to complaints regarding the type of packaging used by a company, paying an annual membership fee, annual audits compliance and the agreement to the making of a public declaration to work collaboratively.
In April 2018, Australia’s environmentl ministers collectively agreed to establish an ultimate objective for packaging to be 100 per cent reusable, recyclable and compostable by 2025.
While this may seem a difficult challenge with the input of stakeholders, government sectors and organisations such as APCO, it can be achieved.
Businesses must get on board and take the lead in the community to ensure that waste disposal is not an issue for future generations.
Dean Frith is a lawyer and partner at Baker Love Lawyers