Scrunching the issue of soft plastics

The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) has compiled a comprehensive gap analysis on the market barriers to recovering soft plastics. Waste management review sat down with APCO’s Brooke Donnelly to discuss how it fits into the broader plastics issue.

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New national targets set within 2025 packaging plan

New targets within the 2025 plan have been outlined alongside the launch of the Australasian Recycling Label.

The targets aim to ensure 100 per cent of Australia’s packaging will be recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025 or earlier and ensure 70 per cent of plastic packaging is recycled or composted.

Additionally, the targets aim to increase the average recycled content within all packing by 30 per cent and phase out problematic and unnecessary single-use plastic packaging through design, innovation or the introduction of alternatives.

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The targets build on commitments made by federal, state and territory environment ministers and the President for the Australian Local Government Association earlier in April this year.

Industry representatives and environmental groups support the targets including Aldi, ALGA, Amcor, Australia Post, Boomerang Alliance, Chep, Close the Loop, Coca-Cola Amatil, Coles, Detmold, Goodman Fielder, Lion, Metcash, Nestlé, Orora, Pact Group, Planet Ark, Redcycle, Simplot, Suez, Tetra Pak, Unilever, Veolia, Visy and Woolworths.

Woolworths General Manager, Quality and Sustainability Alex Holt highlighted the importance of this collaboration.

“We’re really pleased to see such a wide range of industry players come together in support of such a worthy goal. Moving towards a circular economy won’t be easy, but we have the right mix of organisations on board to help make it a reality,” Mr Holt said.

Federal Environment Minister Melissa Price congratulated the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) and the initial working group of businesses that are supporting the targets.

Minister Price has also officially launched the Australasian recycling Label to help achieve the 2025 National Packaging Targets, developed by Planet Ark, PREP Design and APCO to help consumers better understand how to recycle packaging.

“The Australasian Recycling Label provides people with easy to understand recycling information when they need it most, in those few seconds when they are deciding what bin the package goes in. The label removes confusion and reduces waste,” Ms Price said.

With more than 200 recycling labels currently being used in Australia, the new system aims to reduce confusion and contamination in the waste stream.

Nestlé Head of Corporate and External Relations Oceania Margaret Stuart said the inclusion of the label on Netslé’s packaging was a demonstration of the company’s commitment to sustainability.

“More and more people who buy our products want to know how to manage packing waste, so we have committed to implementing the Australasian Recycling Label across all our locally controlled products by 2020,” Ms Stuart said.

Unilever ANZ CEO Clive Stiff has said the announcements are a critical step towards greater collective action on increasing the nationals recycling capability.

“Plastic packaging waste represents an $80 billion loss to the global economy every year. The benefits of the circular economy approach are clear for business and the environment – the more effective use of materials means lower costs and less waste,” Mr Stiff said.

“We are proud to have recently announced that bottles of popular Unilever products like OMO, Dove, Sunsilk, Surf and TRESemmé will soon be made with at least 25% Australian recycled plastic.

“This is just the start for us and no business can create a circular economy in isolation. Heavy lifting is needed from all players involved – suppliers, packaging converters, brand owners, policy makers and retailers, collectors, sorters and recyclers. We need a complete shift in how we think about and use resources.”

Planet Ark provide councils packaging recycling label webinars

Planet Ark is increasing its efforts to educate Australians about Australasia Recycling Labels, including councils and educators.

In partnership with the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO), the Australasian Recycling Label has entered into a new phase which will allow more companies to adopt it. Organisations such as Australia Post, Blackmores, Nestlé, Unilever and Woolworths have already pledged their commitment to the label.

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It has been designed to be easy to understand and show what needs to be done with each piece of packaging to dispose of it in the best way.

Because councils play an important part in the recycling process and are the source of the evidence base used by the label, Planet Ark is hosting a series of free webinars in the coming weeks.

Council and waste industry staff members that are interested can sign up by clicking here.

Webinars are planned for the following dates:

  • August 28 – 11am AEST
  • September 4 – 11am AEST
  • September 12 – 1pm AEST
  • September 20 – 1pm AEST

APCO releases Market Impact Assessment Report: National Sword

The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) has released the Market Impact Assessment Report – which reveals the impact of China’s National Sword policy.

Findings from the report reveal that the volume of Australian export of scrap paper and plastics has remained largely stable over the past 12 months, however their value has dropped significantly due to global oversupply.

According to the report, mixed paper scrap once valued at $124 per tonne (EXW) has dropped approximately 100 per cent and is now close to worthless. Scrap mixed plastic has fallen 76 per cent, from $325 per tonne to $75 per tonne and cardboard is now valued at $125 per tonne, falling 40 per cent from $210 per tonne.

In January 2017, around 71 per cent of Australian exports of scrap paper/paperboard and scrap plastics were exported to China (98,300 tonnes of the 139,400 tonnes total). By January 2018 this had fallen to 34 per cent of Australian exports (43,200 tonnes of the 128,200 tonnes total).

“There is no doubt that the Chinese import restrictions have had a financial impact on the revenue streams of those receiving and sorting recyclables. This has coincided with the increasing costs of electricity, fires at some facilities, stricter compliance requirements and large increases in insurance costs,” the report says.

“The impact on a per tonne basis for all recyclables will vary from one sorting facility to another. Based on the analysis of reported prices for each commodity, the overall impact to end of February compared to long term averages is estimated to be a loss of between $65 and $85/tonne.”

APCO Chief Executive Officer Brooke Donnelly said that what essentially lies at the heart of this issue is China’s decision to revise the contamination threshold for scrap paper and plastics.

“We need to develop the right domestic infrastructure to lower the contamination levels in our waste and start building viable end market solutions here in Australia to ensure a smaller, cleaner packaging waste stream,” she said.

APCO is already developing a range of solutions to improve sustainable packaging design, reduce contamination and improve recycling rates.

Most recently, APCO launched the first nation-wide labelling program to help Australians better understand how to recycle packaging correctly and assist organisations in designing for recycling and working towards lowering contamination levels. Launched in conjunction with Planet Ark and PREP Design, the program has already been adopted by Australia Post, Blackmores, Nestlé, Officeworks, Unilever and Woolworths among others.

APCO has accelerated the delivery of the PREP design tool, an online evaluation portal that determines if a packaging format is recyclable or not in the current kerbside collection service. For the first time in Australia, organisations can develop their packaging to be recyclable where possible, driving waste avoidance outcomes at the design stage.

APCO is also currently reviewing its Sustainable Packaging Guidelines (SPGs) to help businesses reduce the environmental impact of their packaging and develop a standardised approach to key issues such as the use of recycled content in packaging.

“Transitioning to a circular economy is essential if we are to reduce the environmental impacts of packaging and this requires collaboration from brands, governments, the recycling and packaging industry and consumers alike. APCO is in a unique position to facilitate this collaboration and we look forward to working with all stakeholders to help Australia realise a circular economy,” Ms Donnelly said.

You can read the Market Impact Assessment Report here.

National Food Waste Strategy in discussion

The National Food Waste Strategy brings to light a range of challenges for reducing the nation’s food waste, but where to from here?

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