Stop The Plastic Tide - Plastics, Waste And Recycling Policy


A Shorten Labor Government will make Australia a world leader in tackling plastic use and boosting recycling – investing $290 million to cut waste and handing on a cleaner Australia for the next generation.

Labor will protect our vulnerable wildlife and reduce the amount of waste generated by putting in place a national ban on plastic products like microbeads and single-use plastic bags.

Plastic has a devastating impact on our natural environment – more than a thirds of the world’s sea turtles were found to have plastic waste in their stomachs, and it is estimated around 90 per cent of seabirds eat plastic waste. Plastic breaks up into smaller pieces over time, becoming harder to manage and clean up and filtering through to waterways, lakes and oceans.

That’s why Labor will introduce a national ban on lightweight, single use plastic bags and microbeads from 2021. We will consult with state and territory governments and industry on how best to do this. This will create a consistent approach across the country – following moves of many state and territory governments to phase out single-use plastic bags, as well as manufacturers phasing out microbeads.

In addition, Labor will also implement a broader Recycling and Waste Strategy, including:

  • The creation of a National Container Deposit Scheme – Labor will work with the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) to harmonise existing state schemes. These schemes incentivise recycling and increase the quality of recyclables by separating out materials – making it far cheaper to be able to recycle in Australia. States without a scheme will not be forced to participate in the national scheme, but will be invited to join.
  • Establishing a National Waste Commissioner – A National Waste Commissioner will work with state and local government, helping to educate the community on solutions to waste. The commissioner will also be charged with working with industry on the expansion of schemes for the recycling of products when they are at the end of their use – the Product Stewardship Schemes. This will cost $15 million over six years.
  • Investing in the domestic recycling industry – Labor will invest $60 million in a National Recycling Fund. This will fund projects to encourage recycling, including funding for innovative waste solutions, local government recycling facilities and material processing facilities, and new approaches to tackling food waste.
  • Tackling marine plastics through $15 million to assist our neighbours clean up the Pacific Ocean – As an island continent and developed country, Australia has a responsibility within our region to clean up our oceans. Australia will play its part in our region by funding international efforts to reduce marine litter through the United Nations Environment Programme, regional and bilateral assistance to Pacific nations, and funding of efforts to clean rivers and waterways in Southeast Asian neighbours, including through ASEAN-led initiatives.
  • Setting targets for federal government purchasing of recycled products – As one of Australia’s largest procurers, there is an opportunity to make the federal government a national leader in waste and recycling by prioritising the purchase of recycled products. Labor will also ask the infrastructure department to investigate whether recycled products can feasibly be used as road base for infrastructure projects.


A Shorten Labor Government will clean up Australia’s urban waterways and stop plastics from reaching our oceans through our $200 million Urban Rivers and Corridors program – partnering with community organisations and environmental groups to revitalise the nation’s waterways and make them safe and clean places.

In 2018, COAG agreed to a set of targets to reduce plastics – including that 100 per cent of all Australia’s packaging will be reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025 or earlier. Labor endorses these targets. The Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government has been missing in action – Labor’s plan will provide the national leadership needed to get the country on track to meet our 2025 targets.

Australians want action from government to help reduce waste and build a circular economy. So while many Australians do their duty – they recycle, compost, use keep cups for their morning coffee – we need the federal government to take a leading role to tackle some of the big, structural problems.

For too long, the federal government has left issues of recycling, plastics and waste to state and local government. And, while state and local government have generally moved in a positive direction, plastics and waste are now becoming both a national and international problem.

This election is a choice between Labor’s plan a better environment, or bigger tax loopholes for the top end of town under the Liberals.

Only Labor is committed to delivering a better deal to the next generation.

After six years of Liberal cuts and chaos, our united Labor team is ready.