Campbell Arnott’s Australia’s Liza Vernalls explains how the organisation is working to boost the uptake of difficult-to-recycle materials such as soft plastics and PET, while also making it easier for consumers to recycle.
The Federal Government’s target for all Australian packaging to be 100 per cent compostable, recyclable or reusable by 2025 aims to spur additional action from manufacturers and suppliers of local products to rethink their strategies.
But many organisations, such as Campbell Arnott’s Australia, have been quietly achieving in the background.
Campbell Arnott’s Australia has spent decades honing its sustainability strategy and boosting the recyclability of its materials, including partnerships with REDcycle, which processes traditionally hard-to-recycle soft plastics.
As a member of the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) since 2010, and signatory to its Sustainable Packaging Guidelines (SPG), Campbell Arnott’s Australia has been working with its suppliers to develop a consistent sustainability strategy. Between the two brands Arnott’s and Campbell’s, the organisation has a positive story to tell.
Earlier this year, Campbell Arnott’s Australia won an APCO Award for Outstanding Achievement in Packaging Design.
Liza Vernalls, Packaging Director Asia Pacific at Campbell Arnott’s Australia, says that materials the company uses in production, such as cartons, corrugated board and cans are all recyclable.
“We are looking to the 2025 commitment and feel that we are pretty close to achieving elements already because most of our packaging is already recyclable,” Liza says.
DESIGN AND DEVELOPMENT
Liza says the company extensively reviews its structural packaging before committing to the design and development stage, ensuring the most efficient use of materials. This applies to not just its consumer packaging, but also at a business-to-business level.
She says maximising the palletisation of materials is also a key element of the SPG review to ensure Campbell Arnott’s Australia can reduce the number of trucks on the road across its distribution network. In 2017, the company redesigned its corrugated boxes to reduce their weight and inbound delivery frequency.
“Over the years we’ve reviewed up to 100 per cent of packaging to date as they’ve come through on various projects,” Liza says.
Liza says that there is an additional assessment of the process at the gate to ensure the materials align with the SPG.
With refresher training conducted every two years, Campbell Arnott’s Australia is working continuously to drive packaging efficiency across its supply chain.
As one of Australia’s largest suppliers of snack food, it is also important that Arnott’s Australia products end up in the recycling stream. For this reason, Liza says that the company also plans to include the REDcycle logo on the next iteration of its packaging to boost consumer awareness of the material’s recyclability. She says that Arnott’s Australia also actively participates in APCO’s Soft Plastics Working Group, which is currently looking at the composition of soft plastics and whether they could one day be part of kerbside recycling on a larger scale.
It is also working on upgrading all of its artwork to the Australasian Recycling Label (ARL) to provide clear guidelines on the recyclability of materials. Liza says she anticipates all material will be transitioned to the ARL over the next two years.
“This will alleviate a lot of the confusion on recyclability. We’re looking at a transition over the next two years and what we’re starting with is our new product development, or where we have a graphics or design update,” Liza says.
She anticipates the first ARL-labelled product will hit the market in May next year.
RECYCLED MATERIAL SOURCING
In the meantime, Arnott’s Australia is working within the constraints of the market to ensure its materials are recyclable. For example, Liza says that one issue with soft plastics is that the films can contain metal, while Arnott’s Australia packaging is either single layer or lamination and contains no metal.
In addition, while materials such as PET are recyclable, Liza says they can be difficult to come by, but the company sources these materials to the best of its ability.
Due to food safety and material availability, Campbell Arnott’s Australia’s recycled procurement policy only applies to certain materials, which will continue to be evaluated in future tender opportunities. However, by making changes such as switching to PET sleeves on PET bottles and using recyclable PET trays in its in-tray biscuit range, Arnott’s Australia has reduced its flexible film to landfill by 95 tonnes.
“We ensure our biscuit trays are clear PET. We don’t use coloured PET because we know from visiting recycling centres that that can be an issue in terms of discarding the waste,” she says.
“We would love to use more recycled PET in our bottles. However, there is a lack of availability at the moment.”
Liza adds that there is no recycled material that can be safely put into laminates, but the company is working with its packaging supplier Amcor to understand and continuously investigate in this area. Amcor is also working to the 2025 target.
When it comes to Campbell’s packaging, Liza says many of the company’s materials have been designed for recycling, including cans and PET bottles.
With four manufacturing sites in Australia, including in Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and NSW, the company has reduced its onsite waste to landfill by 90 per cent since 2010. To further reduce its waste to landfill, Campbell Arnott’s Australia is looking at opportunities for onsite soft plastic recycling and other materials, such as pallet wrapping.
But the challenges are ongoing for the company as it seeks to continuously look for improvement in packaging sustainability.
“We’re understanding and digesting what the 2025 goal means for us and fully supportive and aligned to how we get there,” Liza says.