Many retailers have been proactive in improving their environmental footprint for many years, providing consumers with access to more sustainable alternatives, in-store recycling, ethical sourcing, and company-wide sustainability policies.

Though most retailers strongly support sustainable initiatives, it is a complex and sometimes overwhelming challenge as they are faced with ever evolving – and sometimes conflicting – research, products, materials, processes and regulations.

Governments in multiple states and territories are currently either implementing or considering bans on a range of plastic items.

The National Retail Association is involved across all jurisdictions, representing retailer perspectives and ultimately encouraging national consistency to prevent negative impacts and confusion.

Download our Summary Table on current and proposed legislation affecting single-use plastic.

SUMMARY TABLE (JULY 2020)
  • HOT TOPICS

    Many areas of sustainability currently affect retailers, and the NRA is actively engaged in numerous projects and regulatory consultation.

  • Key terms & definitions
    • Degradable plastics
      Plastic which includes a chemical additive to accelerate the fragmentation of the material into smaller pieces, triggered by UV, heat, oxygen, water or microbial action. Includes “oxo-degradable” and “oxo-biodegradable” plastics. Current research suggests degradable plastics of any kind are potentially worse for our environment as they break into microplastics. Many governments around the world are moving towards bans on all forms of degradable plastics.

     

    • Compostable plastics
      Plastic which is made from a material which has been proven to break down completely into natural substances within a set timeframe, environment and toxicity rate. “Compostable” plastics must meet Australian Standard AS4736 (commercial composting) or AS5810 (home composting). An example of a commercially compostable plastic is polylactic acid (PLA). Commercially compostable plastics do NOT biodegrade if littered.

     

    • “Biodegradable” plastics
      While claims of “biodegradability” are often used, there is no Australian Standard for biodegradability as the ability to biodegrade depends on many factors. The ONLY Australian Standards are those relating to compostability.

     

    • “Reusable”
      There is no clear definition of “reusability”, that is, how many times something must be reused. Claims of reusability should be carefully assessed.

     

    • “Sustainably sourced”
      Multiple factors can influence if a product is sustainably sourced such as renewable materials, low-resource materials, ethical practices, modern slavery practices, and many more. In regards to paper and timber products, certification is available through the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC).
  • Government action

    Update June 2020

    The Commonwealth:

    • Following MEM’s agreement to the National Waste Policy Action Plan back in November, stakeholders are keenly awaiting the establishment of governance arrangements and resourcing that will put the ‘Action’ into ‘Action Plan’.
    • Consultation has recently closed on the December 2019 Regulatory Impact Statement for the proposed COAG waste export ban.
    • The National Plastics Summit was held at Parliament House in Canberra on 2 March:At the Summit several key announcements were made by industry on how they will help address the plastic challenge:
      • the Pact Group announced it will invest $500 million in facilities, research and technology to increase the use of sustainable packaging. The result will be that Pact will have 30 per cent recycled content across its product portfolio by 2025 and keep nearly two billion plastic containers out of landfill.
      • McDonald’s will phase out plastic cutlery by the end of 2020, preventing 585 tonnes of plastic waste each year. This is in addition to McDonald’s previous commitment to phase out 500 million straws every year and takes their total annual plastic reduction to 860 tonnes.
      • Nestlé will partner with waste management company IQ Renew in a trial that will see soft plastics collected and recycled from over 100,000 homes, diverting approximately 750 tonnes of soft plastic otherwise headed for landfill.
    • Three major parliamentary processes are underway, including:
      • the Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee’s Inquiry into the Product Stewardship Amendment (Packaging and Plastics) Bill 2019;
      • the House Standing Committee on Industry, Innovation, Science and Resources Inquiry into Australia’s Waste Management and Recycling Industries; and
      • consultation by the Hon. Warren Entsch MP, Special Envoy for the Great Barrier Reef, on a discussion paper Convenience vs. Conservation Tackling the prominence of single use plastics in the age of modern, convenience driven economies
    • The Commonwealth Government is supporting APCO through election commitments of $1.1 million for public education and $1.6 million for the Circular Economy Hub.
    • On 9 February, nine research projects dealing with waste and recycling were announced under the Government’s CRC-P program, including projects covering recycling microfactories, chemical recycling and using recovered plastic in building materials.

    Queensland:

    • Has started work to implement its November 2019 Plastic Pollution Reduction Plan, including getting moving on its plans to introduce legislation in 2020 banning certain single use plastic items and continuing a series of stakeholder workshops on a range of complex plastics issues.
    • June 2020: QLD Department of Environment & Science received an overwhelming reponse to its discussion paper for submissions
      The following single-use plastic products are being considered to be banned from sale or supply in Queensland:

    New South Wales:

    ACT:

    • The NRA is part of the ACT’s Single-Use Plastics Stakeholder Taskforce to help develop legislation to phase out certain single use plastics.

    Victoria:

    • The Victorian Government made some big announcements in February, including:
      • New recycling initiatives, including introducing what will become Australia’s 8th beverage container deposit scheme, and a four bin kerbside system including:
        • glass recycling – purple lid
        • food and garden organics – green lid
        • plastic, metal and paper recycling – yellow lid
        • household waste – red lid.
      • $96.5 million in funding to drive research, expand Victoria’s processing and manufacturing industry, create more products from recyclable materials and support new local jobs.
      • The release of Victoria’s much-anticipated circular economy policy, is expected early 2020.
    • Infrastructure Victoria is continuing to develop advice to government on how to build a better recycling and resource recovery industry for Victoria.
    • The EPA is preparing for the commencement of the new Environment Protection Act on 1 July 2020. The Act provides for a major revamp of the EPA, deals extensively with waste for the first time, and establishes a General Environmental Duty for all corporations. Draft Regulations include Victoria’s implementation of the National Environment Protection (Used Packaging Materials) Measure, and include a packaging recycling target of 70% for liable parties that are not signatories to the Covenant.

    South Australia:

    • The Single-use and Other Plastic Products (Waste Avoidance) Bill 2019 has passed the first house of parliament. The NRA made a submission on behalf of the retail industry. The Bill plans to ban the following (including those made from compostable plastic):
      • Single-use plastic drinking straw
      • Single-use plastic cutlery
      • Single-use plastic beverage stirrer
      • Single-use expanded polystyrene cups, bowls, plates and clam-shells
      • All products made of oxo-degradable plastic
    • The NRA is continuing to participate in:
      • the review of SA’s beverage container deposit scheme.
      • SA’s Single Use Plastics Stakeholder Taskforce
    • June update: Please note that changes have been made to the Bill submitted to Parliament which the NRA believes are problematic. More detail here >

    Western Australia:

    • On 20 February, the WA Government released two consultation papers, including:
      • Closing the loop: Waste reforms for a circular economy; and
      • Review of the waste levy.

    Consultation on these papers is open until 15 May.

    • WA is also undertaking other significant reforms on waste and recycling, including:
      • developing a legislative framework for waste-derived materials, to encourage the use of fit-for-purpose, waste-derived materials in a circular economy; and
      • Preparing to take action on single use plastics

    Tasmania:

    • Tasmania’s draft Waste Action Plan includes commitments to replace the current voluntary regional council waste levies with a legislated state-wide waste levy by 2021 and to introduce a Container Refund Scheme in Tasmania by the end of 2022.
    • The City of Hobart has confirmed that they plan to proceed with a by-law banning single use plastic packaging and foodware in Hobart. Read more on the by-law >
  • National Waste Policy

    We commend the Australian Government, states/territories, and local government involved in the National Waste Policy Action Plan for the recognition of the complex challenges and for launching a national pathway for government, industry and consumers.

    More information:

    NATIONAL WASTE POLICY
  • Plastic Bag Bans

    Seven of eight Australian states or territories will have bag bans in place by the end of 2019.

    The NRA supports bans on lightweight plastic shopping bags if they are nationally-consistent and support is provided to retailers.

    More information:

    PLASTIC BAG BANS
  • Single-Use Plastics

    There is increasing consumer and government concern regarding “single-use” plastics, such as takeaway containers, straws, cutlery and other plastic items typically used once and then discarded.

     

    More information:

    SINGLE-USE PLASTICS            SUMMARY TABLE           DEFINITIONS

     

  • Container Deposit Schemes

    Multiple states and territories have introduced schemes which enable and incentivise the recycling of beverage containers. These schemes involve extensive government and business collaboration and are proving to be highly successful in increasing recycling rates.

    More information:

    CONTAINER DEPOSIT SCHEMES
  • SUSTAINABILITY POLICY

    Many areas of sustainability currently affect retailers, and the NRA is actively engaged in numerous projects and regulatory consultation.

    SUMMARY OF CURRENT IMPACTS ON RETAIL >
  • Opportunities & challenges for retail

    Consumer demand

    Environmental impact is becoming a key consideration when customers decide whether to buy a particular product over that of a competitor. Consumers are increasingly discerning in terms of product materials, packaging, and the retail supply chain in terms of carbon footprint, sustainable and ethical sourcing, product stewardship (end-of-life) and waste products. Recent regulatory interventions, such as bag bans, have demonstrated high levels of public support.

    Regulatory demand

    As the public demands more change, sustainability and environmental impact is an increasing focus for local, state and national governments, not only in Australia, but across the world. The challenge for retailers is the need for a consistent regulatory approach across jurisdictions and across all types of retail businesses to reduce complexity, minimise costs and provide clear messages to their teams and customers.

    Employee demand

    As with many sectors, there is increased pressure to improve sustainability from employees within retail businesses.  Many retailers are starting to promote their sustainability credentials to attract and retail staff, particularly Millenials or Gen Y, which represent a high proportion of the retail workforce.

    Though it can be challenging, retailers who ignore increasing demand from consumers, government and employees for more sustainable approaches risk declining brand appeal, increased regulatory intervention, and missed opportunities.

    SUMMARY OF CURRENT IMPACTS ON RETAIL >
  • NRA position & advocacy

    Consumers and governments are increasingly demanding industry action on sustainability. We believe collaboration, negotiation and coordination between stakeholders enables us to create practical, viable and commercially-aware outcomes for all.

    The NRA supports positive initiatives to improve environmental impact across the retail industry, however these changes must be:

    • nationally consistent
    • fair for all retailers regardless of size
    • carefully considered and researched
    • commercially viable and realistic
    • supported by retailer & consumer education
    • supported by investment in Australian innovation & infrastructure

     

    SEE OUR SUBMISSIONS ON SUSTAINABILITY
  • Representing retailers

    The NRA plays an active role in bridging the gap between retailers and governments to influence, develop and implement initiatives designed to improve sustainability and environmental impact across the retail sector.  We also directly engage and inform retailers about significant changes to regulatory requirements, and most importantly, how to manage these changes.

    The NRA are currently involved in a wide range of projects, partnerships, working groups and taskforces to represent retailer interests:

    • Founder of the National Retail Sustainability Committee
    • Partnership with the QLD Government to assist retailers to manage and comply with the QLD bag ban (since 2017)
    • Partnership with the WA Government to assist retailers to manage and comply with the WA bag ban (since 2018)
    • Partnership with the VIC Government to assist retailers to manage and comply with the VIC bag ban
      • Department of Environment, Land, Water & Planning (DELWP) (since early 2019)
      • Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) Victoria (since Nov 2019)
    • Industry Association Members of the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO)
    • Industry Member of SA Single-Use Plastics Industry Reference Group
    • Industry Member of WA Container Deposit Scheme Advisory Group
    • Industry Member of ACT Single-Use Plastics Industry Reference Group
    • Industry Member of VIC EPA Small Business and Manufacturing Reference Group
    • Industry Supporter of Moving the Needle (reduce textile waste) program
    • Industry Member of Battery Stewardship Council

     

    To enquire about any of our projects and advocacy, please contact David Stout at d.stout@nra.net.au.

  • National Retail Association Sustainability Committee

    The National Retail Sustainability Committee seeks to minimise impact on the environment, whilst maintaining reputation and meeting the current and future expectations of customers.

    The Sustainability Committee aims to:

    • bring together experts from across the retail industry, government and associated stakeholders to continue the momentum of positive sustainability regulations;
    • consider the impact of retail activities upon sustainability, the community and environment;
    • consider the effectiveness of sustainability initiatives, such as policy and industry mechanisms;
    • contribute expertise to ensure sustainability policy is commercially viable and delivers sustainable outcomes;
    • provide a non-competitive forum for key industry and government stakeholders to network and share insight;
    • engage in ongoing dialogue between peers and specialists via the NRA’s private Sustainability Committee Linkedin Group.

     

    Meetings

    Launching in early 2019, the NRA Sustainability Committee holds 3 meetings each year, alternating between Melbourne and Sydney.

    To enquire about attending the next meeting, please contact David Stout at d.stout@nra.net.au.

Organisations & taskforces we currently work with:

Contact Us

David Stout

David Stout

Director Policy National Retail Association
David is a highly-respected senior executive across a wide range of retail sectors including corporate affairs, operations, customer insights, finance, procurement, risk and regulation, stakeholder engagement, community and supply chain.  He is favourably regarded as a bipartisan and ethical operative in best practice across retail and corporate industry, regional and urban councils, local and state governments, and is currently involved in multiple advisory groups / committees.
Ebony Johnson

Ebony Johnson

Project Manager, Policy National Retail Association
As Project Manager in the Policy team, Ebony brings a strong background across the retail and hospitality sectors in project management, stakeholder relations, marketing, events and communications. Ebony provides project management expertise to multiple projects, including NRA’s bag ban programs, sustainability, product safety, retail crime and committees.
Lily Charlton

Lily Charlton

Administration Officer, Policy National Retail Association
Lily Charlton provides a high level of professionalism and organisation, assisting with the NRA Policy team's extensive range of retail committees, state-wide bag ban programs and retail crime initiatives.