New National Recycling and Waste Reduction Laws

Federal Parliament has introduced new laws enabling more effective management of the environmental and human health and safety impacts of Australia’s waste material.

This article applies organisations who export waste.

Recycling and Waste Reduction Bill 2020 (Cth)

Please be advised that the Recycling and Waste Reduction Bill 2020 (Cth) (the Bill) passed the Federal Parliament on 8 December 2020 and received Royal Assent on 15 December 2020. The ban on the export of certain waste materials will begin, according to the COAG timetable, with waste glass on 1 January 2021. This will be followed by mixed plastics from 1 July 2021, whole used tyres from 1 December 2021, single resin or polymer plastics from 1 July 2022, and finally, mixed and unsorted paper and cardboard from 1 July 2024.


Australia ships almost 645,000 tonnes of unprocessed plastic, paper, glass and tyres overseas each year. The Bill implements the 2020 commitment by the Government to ban the export of unprocessed waste.

The Bill aims to more effectively manage the environmental and human health and safety impacts of Australia’s waste material and products, by regulating their export, so that only ‘value-added material’, which can be reused or remanufactured overseas, can be exported. The Bill also aims to realise the community and economic benefits in taking responsibility for products and waste and to promote a circular economy that maximises the continued use of products and waste material over their life cycle and accounts for their environmental impacts.

The Bill will replace the current legislative framework in the Product Stewardship Act 2011 (Cth) with a new national framework that will apply to the whole of Australia.

Importantly, the export ban only relates to unprocessed waste. The Bill sets the requirements and conditions to allow waste plastic, paper, glass and tyres to be exported only when they have been processed in Australia first. Processing within Australia will now be required, before raw materials can be exported to be used in remanufacturing overseas.  These provisions are enabling only and are subject to the Minister making Rules to give effect to the changes. We expect new Rules to be published shortly.

Ban on export of regulated waste material

The Bill outlines that the Rules may prescribe conditions in relation to the export of regulated waste material, including that an export licence be required. Regulated waste material will be prescribed in the Rules, however waste material is defined in the Bill to include any substance that is discarded, rejected or left over from an industrial, commercial, domestic or other activity, as well as anything that is surplus to or a by-product of those activities.  Contravention of any prescribed conditions may incur a penalty of up to 5 years imprisonment and a civil penalty of up to 600 penalty units (currently $133,200). A body corporate may be fined up to 5 times that amount (3,000 penalty units, currently $666,000).

Products and waste from products

Under the Bill, three regimes are prescribed to encourage manufacturers to produce sustainable re-usable products. These regimes aim to meet the overall goals of the Bill as mentioned above.

The first regime is ”voluntary product stewardship”, which involves accreditation of sustainable and reusable products with a stewardship logo. An organisation is authorised to use the logo if they are part of an accredited voluntary arrangement under section 69 of the Bill. This will enable consumers to easily identify products that meet Government accreditation requirements.

The second regime is “co-regulatory product stewardship” and under section 76 of the Bill some manufacturers, importers, distributors and users of products who have been specified in the Rules, known as liable parties, must be members of approved co-regulatory arrangements. It is an offence for a liable party to not be a member of an approved co-regulatory arrangement. The Rules may prescribe more conditions on liable parties, including the requirement to give specified reports to the Minister.

Lastly, section 92 of the Bill introduces ”mandatory product stewardship”, which will enable the Rules to create obligations on organisations in relation to certain products. For example, prohibiting products that contain certain substances and labelling and packaging requirements.

Note that the full impact of the changes will not be clear until the Minister publishes the new Rules.

Please click here to access the full Bill.



For further information please contact the Law Compliance team:

Phone: 1300 862 667