APCO and Australia’s packaging targets

packaging targets

Chris Foley, Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation explains how Australia will deliver on National Packaging Targets.

There are times when the only pragmatic strategy is to be visionary. Six years on from Australia’s adoption of National Packaging Targets in 2018, we are at one of those points.

On some measures the voluntary targets have been phenomenally successful. The efforts of many brand owners to reduce packaging, transition to more recyclable materials and find ways to incorporate recycled content has been truly inspiring. 

Reusable packaging is increasingly commonplace in supply chains, adoption of Sustainable Packaging Guidelines is increasing and there’s greater uptake of the Australasian Recycling Label which is providing consumers with on-pack instructions on which bin to put packaging in. These actions would not have occurred, or at least not to the same extent, in the absence of the targets. 

The waste and recycling sectors have also stepped up, recycling more packaging year-on-year and delivering substantial increases in reprocessing capacity.

But on the most visible metric – our progress towards the targets in percentage terms – we have yet to see the uplift we are looking for. At the request of environment ministers, APCO undertook a review of the targets in 2022. Our subsequent report clearly laid out the good, the bad and the ugly of the packaging system’s efforts to achieve them. Crucially, it set out, for the first time, an analysis of the barriers to progress and opportunities to overcome them, informed by consultation with hundreds of organisations. 

The problems are clear enough, including that the collection, sorting, and reprocessing of some materials, amounting to millions of tonnes of packaging, is uneconomical. The more difficult discussion is how to fix them, and how far we are willing to go to do so. 

The task of setting out a strategy to fix these problems and finally achieve the targets rests with APCO. 

APCO is required to deliver this strategy to environment ministers by the end of June 2024. The strategy will go out to 2030 and will build on the strategic reset we undertook following the 2022 review of the targets. We are now better positioned than ever to lean into the targets but it is clear that BAU (business as usual) will not cut it! We have no option but to be visionary.

To that end, APCO will be consulting with our members and stakeholders through a series of forums in capital cities and online between 30 April and 14 May. Given the important role waste and recyclers play and the economic opportunities that the targets present to operators, I urge you to participate in these forums. Your input is valued and needed to help guide the strategy. 

I must finish with a disclaimer. APCO’s 2030 strategy is being developed concurrently with the work that governments are undertaking to reform the legislative framework for packaging. The strategy will be adjusted in response to the reform process as required.  

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