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.
New targets within the 2025 plan have been outlined alongside the launch of the Australasian Recycling Label.
The new targets aim to aim to increase the average recycled content within all packaging by 30 per cent and phase out problematic and unnecessary single-use plastic packaging through design, innovation or the introduction of alternatives.
Additionally, the targets aim to ensure 70 per cent of plastic packaging is recycled or composted.
These build on the previous announcement of a target to achieve 100 per cent of Australian packaging being recyclable, compostable or reusable by 2025.
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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.”
The Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR) is urging the federal government to grow regional Australia’s recycling industry with a one-off investment of $150 million.
The investment would go towards better sorting, increased reprocessing, community education and government procurement of recycled content product.
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ACOR Chief Executive Officer Peter Shmigel said recycling has a good base in regional Australia, which can be grown for more jobs and economic value in country areas.
“It’s one of the readily accessible ways to diversify regional economies and make them more resilient against droughts and global market forces,” he said.
“Our industry already has a good place in the bush including lube oil recycling, battery recycling, tyre recycling, industrial plastics recycling and consumer packaging recycling in country areas.”
Mr Shmigel said an independent report from MRA Consulting showed investment in local recycling could lead to the creation of 500 jobs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“We can use waste plastics and glass that can’t go back into bottles as part of asphalt in government-funded road projects,” Mr Shmigel said.
“Roads are the biggest asset in country areas and they can be recycled content rather than virgin materials at competitive cost and quality – if governments positively procure for that,” he said.
Mr Shmigel said using recycled content materials in the Snowy 2.0 scheme alone would massively contribute to more jobs and deliver on the community’s recycling expectations.
ACOR members with operations in regional areas include Southern Oil Refinery, Kurrajong Recycling, Re-Group, Visy, Envirostream, Tomra, SIMS Metal Management, ResourceCo, O-I and Downer Group.
The Federal Government’s inquiry into waste and recycling sparked a consideration of whether there are enough market incentives to encourage investment into recycling.
Recycling company Visy has reportedly told two council contractors it will no longer accept recyclable material from February 9.
In a letter reportedly seen by News Corp, Visy invoked “force majeure”, otherwise known as unforeseen circumstances to suspend contracts, citing the China waste ban and collapse of the recycling materials market.
In a statement to News Corp, Environment Minister Lily D’Ambriosio said the state government would look into the problem.
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“I have asked for a meeting with these businesses to seek an explanation into what’s happened and will be discussing these matters with local government,” she said.
“I will be seeking assurances from all relevant parties to ensure this will have no impact on Victorians.”
Warrnambool based company Wheelie Waste was informed of the move on January 24. Other councils may be affected, but reports indicate this has not been confirmed yet.
Polytrade and SKM Recycling is reportedly negotiating with councils and contractors to find a solution over the next 10 days.
Citywide, owned by the City of Melbourne, told the publication its contract with Visy would remain.