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The Fate and Flow of Plastic in Australia

Updated: May 9, 2023

This report is the national data report for the 2020–21 financial year, which is the 12-month period from 1 July 2020 to 30 June 2021.

It was commissioned by the Australian Government Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water, with support by state government agencies in New South Wales, Queensland,

Victoria and Western Australia.

The core dataset published annually in this report is collected through a detailed survey of Australian plastics reprocessors, Australian resin manufacturers and importers, and extensive interrogation of Australian Customs data.

Key survey findings

  • 3,791,000 tonnes of plastics were consumed in Australia.

  • 2,646,700 tonnes of plastics reached end-of-life (EoL) in Australia.

  • 371,300 tonnes of plastics were recovered, with 334,000 tonnes being recycled and 37,300 tonnes sent to energy recovery.

  • The national plastics recovery rate - being a combination of recycling and energy recovery - was 14.0%. This was an increase on the 2019-20 rate of 13.0%, which was underpinned in particular by strong growth in the recovery of business-to-consumer (B2C) packaging (consumer packaging), which has continuing good growth prospects out to 2024-25.

  • The national plastics recycling rate was 12.6%, compared with 12.3% in 2019-20.

  • The plastic packaging recovery rate was 22.4% (combined B2C and B2B packaging). The combined recovery rate of non-packaging plastics was only 8.1%.

  • Of the 371,300 tonnes of plastics reprocessed in 2020-21, 211,900 tonnes (57.1%) was reprocessed in Australia and 159,400 tonnes (42.9%) was exported for reprocessing. This was an increase in total processing of 44,700 tonnes from the 2019-20 recovery of 326,600 tonnes. This increase was mostly due to an increase in exports, but with some increase in local reprocessing as well.

  • Reprocessing capacity in Australia was an estimated 363,300 tonnes/yr at the end of 2021. Actual reprocessing in 2020-21 was 211,900 tonnes, or 58% of potential capacity.

  • Planned new capacity over the next five years is 317,100 tonnes, or an increase of 87% over current capacity.

Plastic Fates and Flows Report 2020-21
Download PDF • 3.07MB

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