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November 6, 2009

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Covenant Gets the Go-Ahead

The recent meeting of the Environment Protection and Heritage Council (EPHC) supported “in principle” the new Australian Packaging Covenant to replace the existing Covenant.

On beverage containers, Ministers are awaiting the results of the final report of the modelling study in to the community's desire to recycle more packaging and reduce litter.

In his most recent message to the industry, Packaging Council of Australia Chief Executive Gavin Williams says the communiqué released by Ministers following the EPHC meeting in Perth on 5 November highlights agreement on a new national policy on waste and resource management.

"This new policy sets the agenda for waste and resource recovery in Australia over the next 10 years," Williams writes.

"Consistent with the meetings strong focus on product stewardship “Ministers supported the strengthened Australian Packaging Covenant to replace the National Packaging Covenant due to expire on 30 June 2010.

"The updated Covenant has a greater focus on package design, workplace recycling, public recycling, and litter reduction projects.”

Ministers noted that the updated Covenant will build “on the success of the model over the last decade” and agreed to extend the existing arrangements by up to one year to allow a smooth transition.

Ministers also noted that the new Covenant has a greater focus on the sustainable design on packaging and will also provide more investment in workplace recycling, public place recycling and litter reduction projects. Ministers welcomed the leadership role shown by industry on the Covenant.

On beverage containers, Ministers left the matter hanging. They heard advice on the preliminary findings of a modelling study which found a high level of community interest in recycling packaging but they are awaiting results of the final report.

If that report demonstrates a sufficient willingness to pay by the community, “the next step would be to compare this against the cost of a range of options including a container deposit scheme and a range of other targeted activities”.

Governments would work with relevant interested parties “out of session” to progress this issue.

According to Gavin Williams, this outcome is good for the packaging industry. "The Covenant has got up," he says, "Container Deposits did not."

"At the same time, the Container Deposits issue is not dead. The wording of the communiqué suggests that the option of a Regulatory Impact Statement (or something similar) may still be required to assess the relative merits of various policy options regarding packaging.

"There may still be some negotiation about the amount of funds ($3 million per annum) that industry has committed under the new Covenant. And there was discussion about whether industry was 'paying enough'."


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