Compelling proposition

A shift in business practices would support a significant increase in procurement of recyclables, writes Matt Genever, Director Resource Recovery at Sustainability Victoria.

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Potential emergency plastic tax by 2021: report

The plastic waste crisis is expected to deepen, potentially leading to a federal response in the form of an emergency tax by 2021, according to global wealth manager Credit Suisse.

It argues that reactionary policy measures are highly likely in the short term and could include a tax on virgin resins or additional tariffs placed on imported plastic goods in its report, The age of plastic at a tipping point.

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With too much plastic waste domestically and with no large export markets available, Credit Suisse estimates there will be a sharp increase in plastic being sent to landfill and illegal dumping.

“Our headline view is that things will get worse before they get better: the policy initiatives in the National Waste Strategy won’t take hold until FY20/21,” the report said.

Credit Suisse expects bans on single use-plastics to be extended to the six most common plastic packaging and tax incentives to be provided to help hit the 2025 target of 30 per cent recycled content in packaging.

The long lead time from policy approval to implementation is problematic, particularly for new waste infrastructure, which the company said will likely lead to a more supportive project approval environment for waste infrastructure.

Waste managers are expected to benefit from this scenario, with short term potential from council re-negotiations and long-term potential to fast-track waste infrastructure approvals, according to the report.

“Plastic has infiltrated almost every aspect of human life. It is the most prolific material on the planet, growing faster than any commodity in the last 33 years,” the report said.

“Plastic packaging has become one of the most intractable environmental challenges of our age. None of the commonly used plastics are biodegradable; they accumulate in landfills or the natural environment rather than decompose.

“To curtail the situation in the short run, it is a matter of when, not if, we see reactionary policy measures,” the report said.

TAS Govt discuss waste management strategies

Waste industry experts and stakeholders have come together in Tasmania to discuss current waste management issues at the Tasmanian Waste and Resource Recovery Forum.

The forum aims to give the waste and recycling industry a chance to discuss issues around waste policy following China’s implementation of the National Sword policy.

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Discussions at the forum focus around waste and resource recovery settings for Tasmania, waste avoidance and reduction, innovations in waste management and bringing a circular economy to Tasmania.

Held by the Waste Management Association of Australia, the forum follows consultation by the Tasmanian Government on its new waste strategy – the Tasmanian Waste Action Plan.

The state government has outlined several commitments and targets to reduce packaging waste, boost consumer awareness through industry, increase recycling capacity and boost demand though market development.

Other targets include making Tasmania the tidiest state with the lowest incidence of litter in Australia by 2023 by increasing penalties for illegal dumping, expanding the reporting of litter offences through an illegal rubbish app, providing additional support for Keep Australia Beautiful Tasmania and using Community Service Orders for rubbish removals from public areas.

The draft of the Tasmanian Waste Action Plan is expected to be released for public consultation in early 2019.

Consumers expect sustainable packaging from industry: research

Consumers are aware of the problems caused by packaging waste but expect the industry to provide more sustainable options, according to research launched by packaging company Pact Group.

The research has found 91 per cent of Australians are concerned about the impact of packaging, with 76 per cent more concerned about packaging waste now than they were five years ago.

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Despite this, the research has found that less than half would be willing to pay more for a product with environmentally friendly packaging.

Pact Group, Executive Chairman Raphael Geminder said that Australia’s packaging industry needs smarter packaging waste solutions, with consumer sentiment shifting and government action forthcoming.

“We can no longer simply rely on consumers to solve the problem, we need government and industry working side by side to create scaled, standardised solutions to tackle packaging waste,” Mr Geminder said.

“In order to realise this vision, we require industry-wide collaboration to simplify the recycling process for consumers.

“An integrated approach will allow us to deliver innovation at scale so new solutions do not simply increase cost and lose value. Consumers should not be forced to choose between value and sustainability,” he said.

The company has announced its own targets to meet those outlined by the Environment Minister Melissa Price last week. Pact Group aims to eliminate all non-recyclable packing, offer 30 per cent recycled material across its portfolio and provide solutions to reduce, reuse and recycle all single use secondary packaging in supermarkets by 2025.

Mr Geminder said there are tangible, incremental changes that can be made today, with longer-term changes which will require cross industry collaboration.

“I will be calling on my industry colleagues to work together with us on common platforms, agreed standards and processes that will create a framework for manufacturers, brand owners and retailers to solve problems systematically,” he said.

Image Credit: Pact Group. Pictured Raphael Geminder (L) and Melissa Price (R)

Nestlé pledges to improve recycled content in EU packaging

Nestlé has pledged to increase the amount of recycled plastics the company uses in some of its packaging in the European Union by 2025.

The company aims to include 25 to 50 per cent recycled materials in PET layer in laminates, caps on glass jars and tines, trays for meat products and shrink films for display trays.

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It follows Nestlé’s pledge in April to make all of its packaging recyclable or re-useable by 2025.

The announcement is part of the voluntary pledging exercise on recycled content by the European Commission. Nestlé CEO for Zone Europe, Middle East and North Africa Marco Settembri delivered the pledge in person to the European Commission.

Mr Settembri said the company is taking the first concrete steps to achieve its packaging ambitions.

“Nestlé supports the Plastics Strategy of the European Union. We share the vision that no plastic packaging ends up in the environment. Recyclable packaging, good recycling infrastructure and more use of recycled material will help us close the loop,” he said.

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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Winners announced for 2018 APCO awards

The 2018 Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) awards took place in Sydney on 29 August, showcasing companies with outstanding achievements in recyclable packaging.

Companies from the telecommunications sector to the food and beverage sector came together on the day to discuss how each could reach the target of 100 per cent of Australian packaging being reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.

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Two workshops were available on the day, with one exploring a sustainable packaging guidelines review and the other focusing on consumer education and behaviour change.

At the workshopping event, APCO Chief Executive Officer Brooke Donnelly said Australia was undergoing a sustainable packaging review to update the most recent, which took place in 2011.

“What we are trying to achieve is better material choices and better design,” said Ms Donnelly.

“Part of that achievement also included correct disposal of packaging and no packaging in landfill,” she said.

At the awards evening, Detmold Packaging won the top award – Sustainable Packaging Excellence.

Detmold Packaging manufacturers paper and board packaging products for the FMCG and industrial markets.

The company was founded in 1948 and is part of the Detmold Group. It has access to a global network, with seven factories and more than 20 sales offices through Australia, Asia, South Africa, the Middle East, America and Europe.

Food company Campbell Arnotts Australia won the award for Outstanding Achivement in Packaging Design, along with the award for the Food and Beverage sector.

Arnott’s is one of the largest food companies in the Asia Pacific region, with its ongoing growth supported by the Campbell Soup Company’s investment in the business.

Other winners for outstanding achievements were CHEP Australia for Outstanding Achievement in Sustainable Packaging Operations, and Australian Postal Organisation for Outstanding Achievement in Industry Leadership.

APCO Award Winners: 

ACCO Brands Australia – Homewares Sector

Amgen Australia – Pharmaceutical Sector

Detmold Packaging – Packaging Manufacturer

Redback Boot Company – Clothing, Footwear and Fashion

Kyocera Document Solutions – Electronics Sector

LyondellBasel Australia – Chemicals and Agriculture

Qantas Airways – Airline Sector

SingTel Optus – Telecommunications

Telstra Corporation – Telecomunications

Super Retail Group – Large Retailer Sector

Tasman Sinkware – Machinery and Hardware

Integria Healthcare – Personal Care

CHEP Australia – Logistics Sector

Nestlé to implement Australasian Recycling Label by 2020

Nestlé

Nestlé will implement the new Australasian Recycling Label and REDcycle logo across all of its locally made products by 2020 to educate consumers that soft plastic can be recycled through the in-store scheme.

The rollout will start in August and will roll out throughout 2019, starting with Allen’s lollies.

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The Australasian Recycling Label shows how each piece of packaging can be disposed of in the best possible way, indicating if the packaging can be recycled via kerbside recycling, conditionally recycled through programs such as REDcycle, or if it is not recyclable.

Nestlé previously announced it aims to make its packaging 100 per cent recyclable or reusable by 2025.

To reach this goal, the company will focus on three core areas, eliminate non-recyclable plastics, encourage the use of plastics that allow better recycling rates and eliminate complex combinations of packaging material.

Nestlé Australia CEO Sandra Martinez said the company is proud to adopt the new label to help consumers correctly recycle by providing the information on how to properly dispose of it.

“Consumers have good intentions when it comes to recycling but they need clearer information. The Australasian Recycling Label will help to remove confusion, increase recycling rates and decrease contamination in recycling streams by helping consumers navigate the process,” Ms Martinez said.

Planet Ark Deputy CEO Rebecca Gilling said the commitment from companies such as Nestlé was an important one.

“We need widespread commitment from industry to apply the Australasian Recycling Label if it’s to become effective in helping consumers improve their recycling habits.”

Turning coffee grounds into coffee cups

Coffee grounds could be used to create biodegradable plastic coffee cups thanks to new research from Macquarie University.

The process converts the spent coffee grounds into a lactic acid which is then turned into a plastic, however the method is still being refined by researcher Dominik Kopp.

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Because 50 per cent of coffee grounds are made up of sugars, they can be converted into bio-based chemicals.

The method was inspired by a metabolic pathway that is thought to exist in an evolutionary ancient organism, which lived in hot and extremely acidic environments.

“Australians consume six billion cups of coffee every year, and the coffee grounds used to make these coffees are used only once and then discarded,” says Mr Kopp.

“In Sydney alone, over 920 cafes and coffee shops produced nearly 3,000 tonnes of waste coffee grounds every year.

“Ninety-three per cent of this waste ends up in landfill, where it produces greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.”

Mr Kopp sources the coffee grounds from one of the shops on Macquarie’s campus and took them back to the lab.

“We assembled a synthetic pathway to convert the most abundant sugar in the coffee grounds, mannose, into lactic acid,” he says.

“Lactic acid can be used in the production of biodegradable plastics, offering a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly alternative to fossil fuel-derived plastics.

“You could use such plastics to make anything from plastic coffee cups to yoghurt containers to compost bags to sutures in medicine.”

His next step will be to further refine the conversion pathway and improve the yield of lactic acid.

“I think my project is one of many interesting approaches on how to use synthetic biology in a responsible manner for the development of a more sustainable and greener industry that doesn’t rely on crude oil,” says Dominik.

“The simple idea that we are converting waste into a valuable and sustainable product is extremely exciting!”

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