Evidence-based progress: APCO

Evidence-based progress: APCO

APCO CEO Brooke Donnelly explains some of the key action points achieved by stakeholders and others that lie ahead to meet the 2025 National Packaging Targets.

I’m pleased to report that APCO has kicked off 2019 on a high, with several members of our team and extended network recognised for excellence in their respective fields. 

At the start of the year, APCO board member Keith Chessell received a World Packaging Organisation Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his 52 years of service to the packaging, food and beverage industries. Selected by a panel of international judges, the award acknowledges excellence in all aspects of packaging science, including technology, design and application. Keith was the only Australian to receive the prestigious honour and will join fellow recipients Shahid Sheikh OBE (United Kingdom) and Gillian Loubser (South Africa) at the WorldStar Award Ceremony in Prague in May. 

Meanwhile in December, Dr Helen Lewis was recognised for her ongoing work in the fields of sustainability and product stewardship with the Waste Management Association of Australia 2018 Women in the Environment Award. Helen is a close partner of the APCO team. She has worked actively to develop the innovative packaging sustainability framework and tool that enables APCO members to benchmark their performance in meeting packaging sustainability targets. Helen will also lead a range of APCO projects in 2019, including further detailed research into packaging consumption and recycling to establish baselines for the 2025 National Packaging Targets and developing targeted design resources to improve packaging recyclability.

A huge congratulations to Keith and Helen. These two high-profile accolades are testament to the quality of the APCO network, a community that is growing all the time. 

Last month we also had the pleasure of working with the team at the Institute for Sustainable Futures (ISF) for the launch of our 2018 Material Flow Analysis report. Developed by Dr Nick Florin and Ben Madden, the project was an evidence-based body of work that outlines the journey of Australia’s packaging waste from bin to landfill or reprocessing. It also identified significant data and infrastructure challenges in the system and modelled five potential solutions for the future. 

A critical first step in achieving the 2025 National Packaging Targets, the report highlighted a compelling need to improve packaging recovery and recycling rates across all material streams. It also spotlighted several significant data and infrastructure gaps that need to be addressed before the targets can be achieved. Bringing together data from government, industry and academic sources, expert interviews and peer review, and thorough mathematical modelling, it was a substantial piece work and a huge credit to the ISF research team. 

Our working groups are another area where APCO has benefited from the power of its networks. Throughout 2018 we facilitated a series of five, year-long industry working groups that were attended by more than 80 industry members from across the value chain and government. With diverse participants ranging from ecofriendly packaging company Biopak to glass recyclers O-I, MRA Consulting and representatives from all tiers of government, the groups met throughout the year to explore a range of solutions to problematic packaging types. These include glass, polymer coated paperboard, soft plastics, biodegradable and compostable packaging and expanded polystyrene. 

The working groups also produced a comprehensive list of recommended projects which have been refined into the APCO 2019 Project Plan – a schedule that will be overseen by our four new independently facilitated 2019 working groups. These groups will be focused on National Packaging Target implementation, design, systems and education and materials circularity. So how does all of this work come together? This year APCO will also be launching another critical piece of the puzzle, with the Collective Action Group (CAG), a team of leading industry and government representatives which will oversee the strategic delivery of the targets. Made up of a team of 12 third-party experts representing the packaging value chain, the CAG will oversee the design of a systemic model for how Australia can transition to an advanced sustainable packaging ecosystem. It will be led by an independent chair, skilled in the facilitation of industry directed change models and co-regulatory programs. 

I’m delighted to announce that Dr Anne Astin will be joining the CAG in the role of Chair, bringing her extensive industry expertise across the food supply value chain from production to consumption, along with government and academic research, regulation and policy. Looking to the year ahead, 2019 is already shaping up to be an active time as we bring together the foundational phase of the 2025 National Packaging Targets to life.