APCO hosts inaugural single-use plastic packaging workshop

The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) has hosted Australia’s first national workshop dedicated to phasing out problematic and unnecessary single-use plastic packaging.

The workshop, held in Adelaide, was coordinated by APCO as part of its work to deliver the 2025 National Packaging Targets, which include phasing out all problematic and unnecessary single use plastic packaging in Australia by 2025.

According to APCO CEO Brooke Donnelly, the workshop focused on understanding national policy approaches and the role of organisations within their supply chain, in an attempt to provide greater confidence that industry actions are aligned and compatible with government priorities.

“The session also assisted APCO in defining its program of work in this space for 2020,” Ms Donnelly said.

Heysen Member and Natural Resources Committee of Parliament Chair Josh Teague delivered the keynote address on behalf of South Australian Environment Minister David Speirs.

“It was fantastic to welcome Mr Teague to speak on behalf of Minister Speirs, a great advocate and champion for addressing problematic and unnecessary single use plastic packaging in Australia,” Ms Donnelly said. 

“It’s an honour to be part of this great collaborative effort here in the leading circular city of Adelaide, as we define a pathway forward for how we translate the current national policy work into tangible outcomes for our local communities.”

Workshop representatives included:

Industry: Coles Group, Woolworths Group, ALDI, IKEA, Qantas, Coca-Cola Amatil, McDonald’s, MARS Food, Biopak, Keep Cup and Carlton & United Breweries.  

Industry Associations: National Retail Association, South Australian Independent Retailers, Australian Food and Grocery Council and the Australian Organics Recycling Association.  

Government: Commonwealth Department of the Environment and Energy, Green Industries South Australia, Australian Local Government Association, Local Government Association of the Northern Territory, WA Local Government Association, WA Department of Water and Environmental Regulation, QLD Department of Environment and Science, East Waste, Local Government Association of the South Australia, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning and the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment.

Community / Academia: University of Tasmania, Queensland University of Technology School of Design, Loop Circular Economy Platform, Keep South Australia Beautiful and the Loop Circular Economy Platform.

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Collaborating with confidence: APCO

Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation CEO Brooke Donnelly talks about the Collective Action Group and systemic models for action on packaging resource recovery.

A lack of policy centralisation has been a concern for the waste and resource recovery industry since the 2009 National Waste Policy stalemate. In response, following the 2018 Meeting of Environment Ministers, the Federal Government announced it would shift its policy direction by taking an increasing role in waste reduction and recycling policy.

The then-Environment Minister Melissa Price announced that in order to facilitate a unified direction on waste and recycling, a new National Waste Policy would be developed. Current Waste Reduction Minister Trevor Evans said an action plan would be devised through interjurisdictional collaboration later this year.

As part of this change in direction, the Federal Government also formally committed to the National Packaging Targets.

The National Packaging Targets aim to have 100 per cent of Australian packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025 or earlier. Its an ambitious goal, given only 56 per cent of Australian packaging was recovered for recycling in 2017-18, according to a UTS Institute of Sustainable Futures study.

Additionally, the study shows of that 56 per cent, 34 per cent was exported overseas.

Endorsed by the Australian Local Government Association in 2018, the targets also seek to achieve a 30 per cent average recycled content rate by 2025, and have 70 per cent of Australia’s plastic packaging be recycled or composted by the same year.

Phasing out problematic and unnecessary single-use plastic packaging through design, innovation or the introduction of alternatives is the final target.

Despite the bold goals, Australian Packagaing Covenant Organisation (APCO) CEO Brooke Donnelly is confident the targets can be meet.

“We’re in a position where we need to drive change while we have the opportunity, hitting the ground running,” Brooke says.

“Australian industry is vibrant, proactive and really driving the activity towards a circular economy transition, which will help us all achieve the targets.”

APCO, which has been tasked with leading the implementation process, has recently established the Collective Action Group (CAG) to oversee strategic delivery of the targets.

The group is comprised of 12 leading representatives from across industry and government, including Coles, Nestle, Coca Cola Amatil, Planet Ark, the Australian Council of Recycling, SUEZ and Visy.

Additionally, representatives from the Queensland Department of Environment and the Federal Department of Environment and Energy are members.

“We have two representatives from each sector of the packaging supply chain, such as brands, community, resource and recovery and retail and manufacturing,” Brooke says.

Managing multiple high-level stakeholders with potentially competing interests can be challenging, which is why APCO employs a best-practice model of governance for all CAG meetings.

“We have a really great chair, Dr Anne Astin, an independent chair with experience in product stewardship and co-regulatory organisations,” Brooke says.

“Dr Astin understands and appreciates getting the best from member diversity and is implementing a very structured approach.”

The first meeting of CAG was officially opened by Trevor Evans, the Federal Government’s Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environmental Management in June.

“It was really great to have Minister Evans with us – it’s wonderful to see his appointment and also his energy and engagement with supporting the industry,” Brooke says.

“It’s difficult to get such senior executives in one room at the same time, so it was a really lively and informed discussion, which is fantastic.”

Brooke says CAG’s first job will be developing a set of agreed definitions for key terms such as “problematic” and “unnecessary”.

“While agreeing on definitions might appear simple, it can be quite challenging and is a critical part of the process,” she says.

“Developing a full and shared picture of the packaging landscape is the only way to achieve effective change.”

The CAG will then work to establish baseline metrics for each of the four targets, before developing and endorsing the Sustainable Packaging Pathway white paper.

To create the white paper, Brooke says the CAG will co-design a systemic model for how Australia can transition to an advanced sustainable packaging ecosystem. The white paper will then outline the steps towards making the 2025 packaging targets a reality.

“The CAG will provide advice and guidance to support the outcomes, which are the results of the 22 priority project areas in 2019,” she says.

Project areas include consumption and recycling data, materiality testing, economic analysis of system interventions and sectorial circularity project delivery.

According to Brooke, project areas are managed through six APCO advisory groups that sit under the CAG. She says all APCO research flows up to the advisory groups for analysis, before it again flows up to the CAG.

The CAG will also oversee the results of comprehensive infrastructure mapping of the current resource recovery sector for packaging and explore alternative models.

“By the time we get to the white paper, which builds on the 2018 work APCO did on problematic material issues, we will have worked with over 200 organisations and every level of government,” Brooke says.

“A huge and diverse group of people will have participated in the development of the eventual roadmap.”

Brooke says while the targets are complex and challenging, cooperation is the key to achieving them.

“It’s our job and everybody’s job to contribute. If we all just do a little bit better today we can get there,” Brooke says.

“It’s all about creating a collaborative space so we can get to the targets.”

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One year on from the ARL

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Read moreOne year on from the ARL

ALDI announces new packaging commitments

ALDI Australia has announced it will cut a quarter of all plastic packaging from its range by 2025, as part of a wide range of new packaging commitments.

ALDI Australia Managing Director Buying Oliver Bongardt made the announcement in front of 100 ALDI business partners at a supplier forum this week.

“In an act of transparency and authenticity, ALDI has committed to annually report on its progress towards this goal,” Mr Bongardt said.

“It’s our ambition to reduce the amount of plastic in our stores, while in parallel stimulating Australia’s circular economy and ensuring our business partners have commercially viable packaging options to reduce their reliance on virgin materials.”

Mr Bongardt said all single use plastics, such as cotton buds and plastic plates, will also be removed from ALDI stores by the end of 2020.

“Despite our desire, and that of our customers, to remove plastics immediately, this process will take years not weeks,” Mr Bongardt said.

“Today’s announcement is to clearly demonstrate that we are completely invested in the important journey of reducing waste, and we stand committed to quantify our progress over the coming years.”

Additionally, Mr Bongardt announced that ALDI had diverted six billion single-use plastic bags from entering the environment, the equivalent of 40,000 tonnes of soft plastic, since opening 18 years ago.

Mr Bongardt said ALDI acknowledged the pressure these commitments would place on their businesses and has resourced a team to support the transition.

In response to the announcement, Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation CEO Brooke Donnelly said ALDI was demonstrating that sustainable packaging could drive a range of positive commercial benefits.

“I’d like to acknowledge ALDI on their new sustainability commitments, which represent a significant contribution to sustainable packaging in Australia and an important milestone in our work to reach the 2025 National Packaging Targets,” Ms Donnelly said.

“It’s particularly impressive to see the process ALDI has undertaken to involve their suppliers, effectively bringing a range of businesses along on their sustainable packaging journey and delivering an efficient, cost effective approach to the entire supply chain.”

ALDI’s packaging commitments:

— Reduce plastic packaging by 25 per cent by 2025.

— Actively reduce the amount of plastic packaging in the fresh produce range and transition to more sustainable alternatives where possible, producing no increase in food waste.

— Phase out problematic and unnecessary single-use plastics by the end of 2020.

— Prioritise the reduction or replacement of difficult to recycle black plastic packaging.

— Make ALDI’s exclusive range packaging 100 per cent recyclable, reusable or compostable by the end of 2025.

— By the end of 2020, all paper and pulp-based packaging in ALDI’s everyday range will be either Forest Stewardship Council certified, Programme for the Endorsement of Forest certified or 70 per cent recycled.

— Include, at minimum, 30 per cent recycled materials in plastic packaging by the end of 2025.

— Use the Australasian Recycling Label on all ALDI branded products by the end of 2022.

— Further educate customers on the importance of packaging waste reduction.

— Publicly report against all goals from 2020.

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Trevor Evans MP opens APCO Collective Action Group

Trevor Evans, the Federal Government’s Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environmental Management has officially opened the first meeting of the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation’s (APCO) Collective Action Group (CAG).

The team of 12 leading representatives from across the supply chain and government will be tasked with overseeing the progress of Australia’s 2025 National Packaging Targets.

The 2025 targets were launched by government and industry in 2018. The CAG’s role is to work with APCO to oversee the development of a systemic model for how Australia can deliver the 2025 targets. The primary task for the CAG in 2019 is to develop a white paper setting out the roadmap for all stakeholders and identifying the critical interventions required to successfully transition Australia to a circular economy for packaging.

The CAG brings together representatives from the resource recovery, community, government, packaging, retail and manufacturing sectors to tackle Australia’s packaging waste challenges. It includes organisations such as Coles, David Jones and Country Road Group, Nestle, Coca Cola Amatil, EY, Planet Ark, the Australian Council of Recycling, SUEZ, Visy, Pact Group, the Department of Environment and Science (QLD) and the Federal Government’s Department of the Environment and Energy.

Mr Evans told the CAG the Federal Government had endorsed the National Packaging Targets.

“We’ve provided $1.1 million to APCO to help drive the consumer education and awareness that we need to see as we go on this journey in relation to recycled packaging.

“At this year’s election, we put a package of measures valued at over $160 million together to support waste reduction and recycling in this country. That included, very importantly, $20 million on the table for product stewardship so that is to support the development of new industry led recycling schemes and another $20 million for research,” Mr Evans said.

He said noted that last year’s meeting of environment ministers agreed to a National Waste Policy that would set a new unified direction on waste and recycling.

“We’re going through the process of developing a strong national action plan and importantly that has to include appropriate funding, robust targets and milestones along the way.”

APCO CEO Brooke Donnelly said that the formation of the CAG is an exciting milestone in APCO’s work towards delivering the targets.

“It’s fantastic to bring together such a prestigious group of leaders for the task. The 2025 National Packaging Targets are some of the most ambitious and decisive environmental targets to be supported in Australia and their delivery requires collaboration from across industry,” Ms Donnelly said.

“We applaud all CAG participants and their leading organisations for stepping up as key players in the global movement to create sustainable packaging solutions that drive accountability, transparency and shared value for consumers, industry and government”.

Over the next 12 months, APCO will be delivering an extensive program of projects to drive the delivery of the 2025 National Packaging Targets. These will be facilitated by a team of APCO Working Groups, comprising nearly 100 participants from industry and government across Australia which will in turn provide analysis and resources to the overarching CAG.

The CAG met for the first time on Tuesday.

The projects include comprehensive infrastructure mapping of the current waste and recycling system and a series of models for alternatives; a range of research and trials to better understand compostability, remote and regional waste collection partnerships, phasing out of single-use plastics and consumer education initiatives to ensure a consistent approach to resource recovery in the packaging streams.

CAG Members include:

  • Jeff Maguire, Group Head of CDS Implementation and Packaging Sustainability, Coca-Cola Amatil
  • Margaret Stuart, Head of Corporate and External Relations, Nestlé Oceania
  • Raphael Geminder, Chairman at Pact Group Holdings
  • Richard Macchiesi, General Manager – Insights and Innovation – Visy
  • Fiona Baxter, Group Manager Responsible Sourcing, Coles
  • Lok-Man Shu, Regional Environment Manager, David Jones and Country Road Group
  • Louise Vickery, Assistant Secretary, Australian Government Department of Environment and Energy
  • Kylie Hughes, Director Waste Policy and Legislation, Department of Environment and Science QLD
  • Terence Jeyretnam, Partner, Climate Change & Sustainability, EY
  • Paul Klymenko, CEO, Planet Ark
  • Peter Shmigel, CEO, Australian Council of Recycling
  • Justin Frank, Director, Marketing, Communications and Key Accounts, SUEZ Australia & New Zealand
  • Anne Astin, Independent Director, APCO – Chair of CAG
  • Brooke Donnelly, CEO, APCO – CAG Secretariat
  • Helen Lewis, Professor, Institute for Sustainable Futures – CAG Secretariat

Packaging MFA reveals recycling challenges and opportunities

The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) this week launched a Packaging Materials Flow Analysis (MFA), a new report developed in partnership with the Institute of Sustainable Futures (ISF) mapping the current state of post-consumer packaging in Australia.

Commissioned on behalf of APCO, the report highlights a compelling need to improve packaging recovery and recycling rates across all material streams.

In 2017/18 Australians generated an estimated 4.4 million tonnes of total packaging waste, with 68 per cent of this collected, and 56 per cent of the collection total recovered by recycling efforts. This ranged from 32 per cent for plastics and up to 72 per cent for paper streams – highlighting a significant opportunity to improve waste management practices to achieve higher recovery rates.

Of the 4.4 million tonnes, the report shows 44 per cent was landfilled, 33 per cent went to local secondary material utilisation, 19 per cent exported, four per cent stockpiled and more than 0.5 per cent to energy recovery.

The MFA Report is one of several APCO initiatives being conducted during the foundation phase of the targets (2019-2020) – the groundwork stage that focuses on research, engaging stakeholders and setting baselines and frameworks.

APCO CEO Brooke Donnelly said that to achieve the 2025 National Packaging Targets, we need to first understand the journey materials take along the entire supply chain and establish a baseline of data to measure change and interventions. She said that the MFA is first step in this process.

As a critical first step in achieving the 2025 national packaging targets for all material to be reusable, recyclable or compostable, the report outlines the current journey of Australia’s packaging waste from bin to landfill or reprocessing, identifies significant data and infrastructure challenges in the system and models five potential solutions for the future.

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One of the challenges is the major losses to landfill to recoverable materials occurring before waste is collected for sorting at materials recycling facilitates (MRFs) or container deposit scheme collections. The report attributes this to incorrect disposal of packaging wastes by households and businesses.

“Better management of this waste at the source, through improved source separation, is important. Critically, consumer education and awareness raising around appropriate disposal and collection channels, as well as smarter design of packaging for recycling, are also key strategies. These are already supported by the new Australasian Recycling label (ARL) and the Packaging Recyclability Evaluation Portal (PREP),” the report says.

Additionally, the report shows the opportunity to increase sorting efficiency by diverting materials, especially glass, from kerbside to the expanding container deposit scheme collections. It finds better sorting equipment will also support improvements in contaminant removal. The report shows there are about 100 MRFs in operation across Australia, with throughput capacities ranging from 5000 to 250,000 tonnes per annum. Around 45 per cent of the total packaging waste stream for 2017/17 gets directed to MRFs and their capabilities for efficiently sorting co-mingled and highly contaminated waste is indicated to be a major factor limiting packaging sorting efficiency in Australia.

“Upgrading existing MRF capabilities is difficult and expensive owing to market uncertainties (e.g., caused by Chinese waste import restrictions), making the case for improving up-stream source separation and collection stronger,” the report says.

Future modelling shows potential to achieve an overall packaging waste recovery rate of 77 per cent, assuming a range of strategies are adopted to address losses across the whole chain, from collection to processing.

With glass packaging, the estimated recovery rate is just over 50 per cent and 23 per cent of glass waste disposed to the residual stream. About 80,000 tonnes of glass is collected and sorted through container deposit collection systems.

The investigation in particular highlights the importance of improving source separation, particularly for plastics to address residuals, a priority for paper in reducing contamination (embedded glass fines) that could be achieved with separated paper or glass separation and diverting glass to CDS to improve the quality of the stream to be suitable for bottle to bottle recycling.

Institute for Sustainable Futures (UTS) Research Director and co-author of the report Dr Nick Florin said that there is great potential to step-up material recovery from the current overall recovery rate of 56 per cent and at the same time increase demand for recycled materials to drive the transition to a circular economy for packaging.

“APCO, as the central product stewardship organisation, is well placed to support this coordinated transition that involves cooperation between consumers, designers, recyclers and packaging manufactures,” Dr Florin said.

The MFA also highlighted significant data and infrastructure gaps that need to be addressed before the 2025 targets can be achieved. These findings will be used to inform additional packaging and recycling research to develop a complete picture of the current system.

Ms Donnelly said we can’t implement effective and meaningful changes to the system if we don’t first have a complete and accurate picture.

“A collaborative approach will be critical to building this. The challenge ahead of us requires a complete transformation of the current system. Over the next 12 months, APCO will be leading an ambitious agenda of projects to build on the findings of the MFA. We look forward to working closely with all stakeholders as we transition to a circular model for packaging in Australia,” she said.

Throughout 2018 APCO also facilitated a series of five, year-long industry working groups attended by more than 80 industry members from across the value chain and government to explore solutions to problematic packaging types (including glass, polymer coated paperboard (PCPB), soft plastics, biodegradable and compostable packaging, and expanded polystyrene).

In 2019, APCO will be co-ordinating 22 new projects to build on the findings of the MFA and the 2018 working groups. These will include further detailed research into packaging consumption and recycling to establish baselines for the 2025 targets, developing targeted design resources to improve packaging recyclability, and developing strategies to address problematic packaging, including plastics.

To read the full APCO Packaging Material Flow Analysis 2018, visit the APCO website.

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