Last Word

Progress to 2025 continues: APCO

Despite the challenges of 2020, Australia has continued to deliver impressive gains on its journey to delivering the 2025 National Packaging Targets, writes APCO CEO Brooke Donnelly.

For many, 2020 has been a year of uncharted territory – professionally, economically and socially.

Yet despite its challenges, Australia has continued to deliver impressive gains on our journey to delivering the 2025 National Packaging Targets.

Here is a snapshot of activity APCO and our wider community are delivering to build a circular economy for packaging in Australia.    

Work is well underway on our program of FY21 Priority Projects – a series of dedicated projects co-designed with our community of working groups to address systemic challenges and drive action in the following key areas: reuse, recycling, recycled content, composting, single-use and unnecessary and problematic plastic packaging phase out.

Some of the exciting initiatives we are looking forward to unveiling in the next twelve months include:

• A reuse resource and case study analysis to support industry with the implementation of reuse systems.

• A range of new industry best practice design guidelines covering soft plastic, rigid PP, rigid HDPE, fibre based packaging/PCPB and problematic small items.

• A new project to build industry awareness, education and responsibility regarding the benefits and importance of B2B packaging recovery.

• New research and projects to map and plan effective strategies to increase recovery or reduce the use of soft plastics.

• The new Pledge Project, which calls on organisations from the packaging supply chain to publicly pledge the volumes of specific materials they will transition from virgin materials to recycled content.

Internationally, pledge projects have proven to be an effective tool in demonstrating the powerful market potential for recycled content uptake.

The European Commission’s 2019 Plastics Pledge is not only driving major investments in the industry, but is on track to triple the EU’s recovery of plastics within five years.

The Pledge project is part of a series of projects addressing the recycled content issue – with other initiatives including recycled content traceability, verification, labelling, procurement and design guidelines.

It’s been two years since we launched the ARL program to our APCO members and the scheme has much to celebrate, with overwhelming support from both government and industry.

Over 470 Australian businesses have now adopted the program and a report developed by the Australian Council of Recycling in August found in their test sample nearly a quarter of products contain the ARL – an incredible achievement within a short time frame.

This year the program was also recognised internationally as a world-leading consumer education initiative in a report from the UN Environment Programme, commended for its clarity, reliability and accessibility.

Looking ahead to 2021, we are excited to be rolling out the next iteration of the label – which will expand to encompass recycled content and reuse.

Training and education have continued to be a major focus for APCO in 2020. Through our training partner, the Australian Institute of Packaging, we delivered 25 training events in QLD, NSW, VIC, SA, WA, NZ and the Philippines during the 2019-2020 period, involving 885 participants.

The sessions are designed to build industry understanding and capability around critical sustainable packaging topics and resources, including the 2025 Targets, the Sustainable Packaging Guidelines and the ARL Program.

Since lockdown started in March, APCO has hosted weekly webinars covering all things sustainable packaging.

The popular sessions have brought together over 3500 attendees, and covered issues ranging from sustainable communications and investment, through to behaviour change and reporting. All session recordings are available on the APCO website.

In October, we are very excited to be launching a new creative campaign in partnership with Planet Ark to build awareness of the ARL and promote better recycling behaviours.

The ‘Check It, Before You Chuck It’ campaign will aim to improve recycling behaviours by encouraging all Australians to look for the ARL every time they are at the bin.

The launch is the first major focus of APCO’s National Consumer Education Campaign, a two-year program to promote better consumer awareness and behaviour relating to sustainable packaging.

Alongside recycling, the campaign will seek to improve sustainable packaging awareness and behaviour in Australia by addressing six core topics: recycling, recycled content, reusable packaging, packaging reduction and avoidance, compostable packaging and the functional role of packaging, such as the relationship between packaging and food waste avoidance.

At the time of writing, APCO’s members are in the process of finalising their annual reporting process – a core requirement of the membership process.

With more than 1600 members tracking and assessing their packaging sustainability, the annual reporting tool is fundamental for keeping Australian industry transparent and accountable.

It’s also a critical data gathering exercise that allows us to build a systemic picture of packaging in Australia – and will form an important part of our annual Packaging Consumption and Resource Recovery Data report that will be published in Q4.

Finally, in November, we are looking forward to again celebrating (virtually) the industry high achievers that are leading the way in sustainable packaging design and innovation at the APCO annual awards.

This year we are also very excited to launch three new categories. The new Our Packaging Future Awards will highlight innovation and leadership from members in areas of sustainable packaging education, improved collection and recycling systems, and end-market development.

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