Achievements amid challenges: APCO

APCO is currently planning how it will deliver its objectives to build a new circular economy for packaging in this new world of work, writes CEO Brooke Donnelly.

Right now, the APCO team – like the rest of Australia – is working hard to navigate the strange and unsettling new reality that is life under COVID-19.

Our first priority has been to ensure that everyone in our team and our community is as safe as possible. Secondly, we have been figuring out how we can continue to deliver our objectives – to build a circular economy for packaging here in Australia – in this new world of work.

At the time of writing, we were about to host a series of working group meetings – the first for 2020 and the first ever in an online format.

Despite the challenges, 2020 has already seen some significant sustainable packaging achievements delivered by APCO and our members.

In March, along with our APCO Board Chair – Sam Andersen, it was a pleasure to represent our membership community at the inaugural Plastics Summit, where several APCO Members made important public pledges.

During the Summit, we also announced that the APCO team will be leading the development of the ANZPAC Plastics Pact, the latest to join the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s global Plastics Pact network.

ANZPAC, which will formally launch to the public in late 2020, will work with businesses, governments and NGOs from across the plastics value chain in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Island nations to develop a common vision of the circular economy for plastics.

Under the ANZPAC program, participants will commit to deliver a series of concrete, ambitious and time-bound targets, which will be established and launched in the coming months.

Then under the ANZPAC Mobilisation Plan, participants will work to deliver a range of projects, clear reporting guidelines, and the development of the Circular Plastics Research Initiative, a new innovation hub that will bring together researchers, investors and industry to share knowledge and align efforts. Finally, all ANZPAC signatories will be required to commit to publicly report on their progress each year.

In April, we also unveiled during an industry webinar one of APCO’s most significant projects to date – Our Packaging Future, the new strategic framework outlining how Australia will deliver the 2025 National Packaging Targets.

Of the 5.5 million tonnes of packaging material placed on the market annually, 88 per cent is currently recyclable, yet just 49 per cent is recovered for use in future applications, with the rest ending up as landfill, or litter on land and in our oceans.

The strategies address issues of packaging design, improved collection and recycling systems and expanded markets for used packaging, and provide a systemic, whole-of-environment approach to building Australia’s sustainable packaging future.

The vision for this report is clear: to build a packaging value chain that collaborates to keep packaging materials out of landfill and maximise the circular value of the materials, energy and labour within the local economy.

This article was published in the May edition of Waste Management Review. 

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APCO releases June webinar schedule

The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) has released the June schedule for its Weekly Community Webinar series.

Launched in March, the webinars are designed to bring together professionals across the business, government and environmental communities and help the sustainable packaging community stay connected during lockdown.

To date, the sessions have been attended by more than 1800 professionals discussing topics ranging from sustainable packaging design and green communications, through to compostable packaging best practice and the importance of a packaging sustainability strategy and action plan.

APCO CEO Brooke Donnelly said despite lockdown presenting a number of serious challenges, progress is still occurring. She added that the willingness of thousands of industry professionals to come together every week to collaborate and learn “is a powerful demonstration of that.”

“It has been so rewarding to be joined by hundreds of professionals every week who are equally as engaged and passionate about this space. We look forward to seeing even more of you in June and July,” Donnelly said.

Webinar schedules will be released monthly. June’s schedule, including links to register, is available below:

3 June: World Environment Day special: Building a career in sustainability

This week is World Environment Day (5 June), the United Nations day for encouraging worldwide awareness and action to protect the environment.

To celebrate, APCO is discussing what it takes to build a career in sustainability and how to deliver impactful sustainability initiatives and actions.

Speakers: Business Council for Sustainable Development Australia’s Andrew Peterson, APCO’s 2019 Sustainability Champion Award winner and Endeavour Drinks Group Sustainability Manager Diarmaid O’Mordha and Fiona Baxter, Packaging Development manager from Simplot.

To register click here.

10 June: Topic Deep Dive: Soft plastics

This week will discuss one of the biggest challenges – and opportunities – for the recycling system: getting Australia’s approach to soft plastics right.

Topics for discussion include practical actions brands can take around soft plastics, challenges and opportunities for meeting the 2025 National Packaging Targets, the critical role of closing the loop by buying back the end product and the vision for soft plastics recycling in Australia.

To register click here.

17 June: Science Based Targets

As companies worldwide strive to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in line with commitments made under the 2015 Paris agreement, Science Based Targets (SBTs) are emerging as an effective benchmark by which to plan and review progress towards a low-carbon business model.

A growing number of APCO members have made public commitments to SBTs, establishing a whole-of-business agenda for delivering emissions reductions.

Topics for discussion include challenges and opportunities for packaging to reduce the carbon footprint of a business, and how businesses can use SBTs in partnership with other APCO tools and resources.

Speakers will include leading practitioners of SBTs, including Jonas Bengtsson, CEO of Edge Environment.

To register click here.

24 June: Launching APCO’s FY21 Priority Projects

This week, APCO will unveil its new Priority Projects schedule. In 2021, APCO will facilitate 23 new projects developed to drive targeted and tangible progress on Australia’s 2025 National Packaging Targets.

The program was developed in consultation with, and will be overseen by, APCO’s 2020 Working Groups – a community of more than 160 participants, representing the entire packaging supply chain.

Topics for discussion include an overview of this year’s priority projects, and how each project connects to Our Packaging Future – the strategic framework for how Australia will deliver the 2025 Targets. The session will also cover insights for how organisations can contribute to and participate in this work.

To register click here.

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ARL ranked ‘world-leading’ in new UN report

The Australasian Recycling Label (ARL) has been rated as world-leading among consumer labelling programs in a new report from the UN Environment Programme, Consumers International and the One Planet network – 10YFP.

The ARL aims to clearly outline what product packaging is made from so consumers can make responsible purchasing decisions and correctly recycle material post-use.

Furthermore, businesses that pledge their commitment to the ARL gain access to a unique analysis tool that allows them to better understand the materials they use in their packaging and associated environmental impacts.

Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) CEO Brooke Donnelly said APCO was “incredibly excited” to see the ARL program recognised as a world-leading consumer education initiative at the highest levels.

“The program was commended for its clarity, reliability and accessibility, and singled out as one of the few programs delivering considered, informative and useful information that could effectively increase responsible consumer behaviour,” she said.

“Congratulations to all of our 380 Members who are already part of the program and actively working to bring this first class program to life.”

The report, A Global Mapping and Assessment of Standards, Labels and Claims on Plastic Packaging, found only 19 per cent of assessed labels gave consumers quality information to make informed recycling and purchasing decisions.

“Globally, only about 9 per cent of plastic waste has been recycled and about 12 per cent has been incinerated. The vast majority ends up in landfill or leaks into the environment,” a Consumers International statement reads.

“Rising public awareness and concern about plastics has encouraged businesses to increasingly communicate this information about their packaging. However, the information is often unclear.”

Report lead authors Ellie Moss and Rebecca Harris have called for a global, multi-faceted, multi-stakeholder approach to tackling the growing problem of plastic waste and packaging.

The report outlines five global recommendations for action, including businesses following the Guidelines for Providing Product Sustainability Information in the their plastic packaging communications, and global consistency when it comes to definitions relating to the content and reusability of packaging and disposable items.

The report also suggests restricting the use of the ‘chasing arrows’ symbol, and having definitions and technical requirements used in standards related to recyclability, compostability, and biodegradability better reflect real world conditions, with more attention to accessibility and consumer understanding.

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New guidelines address compostable packaging confusion

The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) has published new guidelines to help businesses make informed choices when considering compostable packaging.  

The guidelines were developed in partnership with the Australasian Bioplastics Association (ABA) and the Australian Organics Recycling Association (AORA).

Designed to cut through confusion, Considerations for Compostable Packaging aims to help industry professionals – particularly brand owners, packaging technologists and designers and food service providers – decide when and where to use certified compostable plastic packaging, and associated items like cutlery.

Based on systems and infrastructure currently available, APCO CEO Brooke Donnelly said the guidelines identify potential applications and opportunities for certified compostable plastic packaging, with a strong emphasis on packaging that can also facilitate food waste collection. 

“These include food caddy liners, fruit and vegetable stickers and ‘closed-loop’ situations such as festivals,” she said. 

Recommendations are also provided on how to correctly communicate with end consumers, including accurate certification and correct language for labelling and marketing.

Additionally, statements to avoid are highlighted, including misleading terminology and “greenwashing claims” that contribute to unintentional litter and contamination of mechanical recycling systems. 

“With brands facing intense consumer pressure to move away from plastics, coupled with thousands of Australian food outlets turning to takeaway packaging formats for the first time, there’s never been a more important time for businesses to receive accurate and consistent information about compostable packaging,” Ms Donnelly said. 

“Compostable plastics currently account for around 0.1 per cent of plastic packaging on market in Australia. Yet we know that it is a market that is growing and one that causes real confusion – for both industry and end consumers.” 

According to ABA President Rowan Williams, the development of Considerations for Compostable Packaging was an opportunity for peak industry bodies to collaborate on guidelines for industry and consumers.

“The collaborative nature of the work in getting this guideline out has been outstanding. The guidelines look up and down the value chain, at where the raw material comes from and also where the finished packaging will go to, such as organics recycling, in the future,” he said. 

“The ABA, as custodian of the only verification scheme for claims of certified compostability to the Australian Standards, welcomes the advent of the guidelines and looks forward to continuing collaboration with APCO, AORA and industry stakeholders.” 

AORA Chair Peter Wadewitz said as a suitable alternative to non-recyclable packaging, AORA supports the use of AS4736 certified materials for the source separation of food waste in the home or in commercial settings.

“Compostable coffee cups, capsules and compostable bags can all be successfully utilised through normal organic recycling processes, without concern of contamination,” he said. 

The full report is available to download on the APCO website.

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APCO launches weekly sustainability webinar series

The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APOC) has launched a new sustainability webinar series to help industry professionals stay connected.

APCO CEO Brooke Donnelly said the weekly APCO Community Meeting events are designed to bring together sustainability experts from across the business, government and environmental communities to explore ideas.

“These include packaging specific topics – such as sustainable packaging design and strategy, recycled content and labelling for resource recovery and also broader sustainability ideas, including building a circular economy in Australia, recycling in remote and regional communities, and how to communicate your green credentials,” she said.

According to Ms Donnelly, the APCO team have worked hard to build a community that works collectively to address “significant and pervasive” sustainability issues.

“In this new and changing world of work, we want all those who belong to the APCO community to know they have the support of this collective group, and to make sure no one is left feeling disconnected or isolated,” she said.

“We are now up to our sixth webinar in the series, and it has been so rewarding to be joined by hundreds of professionals every week who are equally as engaged and passionate about this space. We look forward to seeing even more of you in May.”

Webinar schedules will be released monthly. May’s schedule, including links to register, is available below:

6 May: Launch of the Compostables Guidelines

Certified compostable packaging will play a small but important role in the delivery of the 2025 National Packaging Targets. But it is also an area that poses significant confusion – for industry and end consumers.

‘Considerations for Compostable Plastic Packaging’ is a new APCO resource, providing clear direction forward on the role of certified compostable plastic packaging in Australia.

Speakers: APCO’s Lily Barnett, AORA’s Peter Wadewitz and Rowan Williams from the Australasian Bioplastics Association.

To register click here.

13 May: Deep Dive: PREP Assessment

This week will take a deep dive into the Packaging Recyclability Evaluation Portal (PREP) – the online verification tool that assesses how packaging will behave in the Australian and New Zealand resource recovery systems, and powers the Australasian Recycling Label.

In this session tailored to users assessing their packaging, such as packaging technologists and developers, the discussion we will explore some of the common technical queries that emerge when conducting an assessment.

Speakers: Australasian Recycling Label Program Manager Lily Barnett and PREP Founder Anthony Peyton.

To register click here.

20 May: The Importance of a Packaging Sustainability Strategy and Action Plan  

This week will address how and why having a packaging sustainability strategy and APCO Action Plan can help support organisations on their packaging sustainability journey.

To register click here.

27 May: Promoting Green Credentials

Research demonstrates that sustainability issues are among the fastest growing concerns for consumers worldwide. 2019 research from Monash Business School found 92 per cent of consumers believe sustainable business practices should be standard, and not the exception.

This session will explore why it is important for brands to effectively communicate their sustainability achievements, and the practical tools and processes for getting started.

To register click here.

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APCO report details steps to deliver National Packaging Targets

The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) has increased the National Packaging Target for recycled content levels from 30 to 50 per cent, as outlined in its new Our Packaging Future report.

“As Australia has already met the original 30 per cent recycled content target, a new all packaging average target of 50 per cent has been co-developed with key stakeholders in the packaging supply chain in order to drive increased demand and end-markets for post-consumer material collected in Australia,” the report reads.

“This increased target will encourage the use of an additional 1.3 million tonnes of material in packaging, from both local and imported sources.”

The report, which outlines critical steps required to deliver Australia’s National Packaging Targets, was unveiled by Assistant Waste Reduction Minister Trevor Evans and APCO CEO Brooke Donnelly at an industry webinar on 31 March.

According to Ms Donnelly, of the 5.5 million tonnes of packaging material placed on the market annually, 88 per cent is currently recyclable, yet just 49 per cent is recovered for use in future applications, with the remainder ending up as landfill or litter.

“Our Packaging Future combines data and insights from more than 200 authors and contributors, to identify the current critical challenges contributing to this gap. It then maps the strategies required to move away from our current take, make and waste approach to managing packaging,” Ms Donnelly said. 

“The strategies address issues of packaging design, improved collection and recycling systems and expanded markets for used packaging, and provides a systemic, whole of environment approach to building Australia’s sustainable packaging future.”

Key recommendations include launching a National Consumer Education Campaign, APCO convening a CDS National Working Group as a collaborative forum to facilitate consistency and alignment of future closed-loop schemes, and developing new reuse models for consumer and B2B packaging.

According to Mr Evans, governments around Australia are relying on APCO and its members to bring about a more sustainable approach to packaging.

“This report shows that about half of all packaging in Australia is not currently being recovered, and that is the gap we need to bridge to achieve the National Packaging Targets by 2025,” he said. 

Further recommendations include exploring and facilitating waste collection partnerships in regional and remote areas, including potential collaboration with other product stewardship schemes where kerbside collection is not feasible, and developing a traceability and verification program for recycled content in packaging and products.

“Our planet has finite resources to meet our ever-increasing consumption. Business as usual is simply not going to sustain our communities into the future. We will not accept a future defined by waste stockpiles, inefficient waste recovery economies, self-interest and fragmented regulation and policy approaches,” Ms Donnelly said. 

“The vision for this report is clear: building a packaging value chain that collaborates to keep packaging materials out of landfill and maximise the circular value of the materials, energy and labour within the local economy.” 

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Immersed in industry: VWMA Waste Expo site tours

The Victorian Waste Management Association’s recent industry site tours took delegates through a range of resource recovery and manufacturing facilities.

The partnership between the Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA) and Waste Expo Australia was particularly significant in 2019, given current challenges facing the Victorian arm of the sector.

While the event had a national focus, Mark Smith, VWMA Executive Officer, says Victoria was lucky to have Waste Expo located in Melbourne.

“We support Waste Expo because of the relevance this national event brings to the Victorian landscape, with thought provoking discussions and presentations on everything important and impactful to the sector,” he says.

As a strategic Waste Expo partner, VWMA ran three concurrent industry tours on the Friday following the expo, a first for the leading waste and resource recovery event.

Hosting a wide range of delegates including representatives from the Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group, industry heavy weights such as TOMRA, local government agents and small business owners, VWMA’s tours were designed to educate and stimulate conversation.

The day’s events included a construction and demolition tour, an organics tour and a packaging process tour.

“Working with industry partners Alex Fraser, the Australian Packaging and Covenant Organisation (APCO) and the Australian Organic Recycling Association (AORA), VWMA ran the tours to bring the steps industry is taking to support Victoria’s recycling agenda into focus,” Mark says.

As attendees gathered at the Melbourne Convention Centre on Friday morning, many expressed difficulty over choosing which tour to attend.

After an opening address from Mark, delegates piled into three separate buses, each with an industry specific tour guide.

The construction and demolition tour, sponsored by Alex Fraser, included site visits to Bingo Industries West Melbourne Facility, Alex Fraser’s Sustainable Supply Hub, a Level Crossing Removal Project site and the Toll Shipping’s terminal at Webb Dock.

Bingo Industries West Melbourne Facility is established on a site acquired 18 months ago by the company, with Bingo pouring $23 million into the facility since then. The site allows Bingo to convert waste into seven different products and has capacity for around 300,000 tonnes per annum. The company aims to achieve a 75 per cent recovery rate on-site.

At Webb Dock, Alex Fraser has worked with contractor Civilex to develop a heavy-duty pavement which incorporates reclaimed asphalt pavement (RAP) that meets VicRoads guidelines. The pavement base layers are comprised recycled glass sand and recycled concrete.

As part of the Level Crossing Removal Project, the Western Program Alliance used Alex Fraser’s recycled sand as bedding material for the combined services conduit housing the communications and power cables. The grade separation was undertaken at Kororoit Creek Road in Melbourne. The low embodied energy material replaces virgin sand with all 900 tonnes diverted from landfill at a lower cost.

Finally, Waste Management Review got to explore where Alex Fraser’s recycling happens, touring its Laverton North supply hub where more than one million tonnes of C&D waste, and one billion bottles of glass waste is reprocessed to make the quality construction materials needed to build greener roads.

A climb to the top of Alex Fraser’s high recycled technology asphalt plant topped off the excursion. The new $18 million faciliity is capable of producing over half a million tonnes of green asphalt per year, utilising the recycled glass sand and RAP produced in its collocated recycling facilities.

Shifting material focus, the Organics and Composting Tour’s first stop took attendees to the South Melbourne Market, where they were told about the market’s 32 tonne a year dehydrating compost initiative.

From there, VWMA and AORA directed the tour bus to Sacyr’s new indoor compositing facility. Michael Wood, Sacyr Environment Australia Consultant, guided the group through the 120,000 tonnes per annum facility, and explained the challenges associated with adapting a European model to an Australian environment.

The group was then guided through Cleanaway’s South East Organic Processing Facility and food depackaging unit.

Melinda Lizza, Cleanaway Development Manager, explained the depackaging unit’s 150,000 tonnes per annum capabilities, before handing the tour over to Michael Lawlor, Cleanaway Operations Supervisor.

After the tour, the group had lunch with the Cleanaway crew and discussed interactions with the EPA and growing levels of scrutiny on the compost industry.

From there, the group was driven to Bio Gro’s Dandenong South Facility, where Sage Hahn, Bio Gro General Manger, explained the company’s approach to organics diversion and composted mulch production.

After taking the group through the Bio Gro site, Sage fielded a range of technical questions and detailed the mineral additive process of mulch manufacturing.

Doug Wilson, AROA Victoria Admin Officer and compost group tour guide, says the day allowed delegates to closely inspect organics processing.

“At the very time when the state government is bringing the circular economy into focus, the organics tour took delegates on an interactive experience with some of Melbourne’s most exciting and innovative organics recovery technology,” he says.

The APCO packing tour, which was delivered in partnership with the Australian Food and Grocery Council and Australian Institute of Packaging, took attendees to Ego Pharmaceuticals, the South Melbourne Markets and recycled plastic manufacturer Replas’ Carrum Downs site.

Of the APCO tour, Mark says industry is at a critical time where collaboration is essential to address challenges in the packaging supply chain and achieve the 2025 National Packaging Targets.

“Great stuff happens all across Australia by the waste and recycling industry and many organisatsions that we partner with,” Mark says.

He added that these were areas of interest that were not spoken about enough.

“It was exciting to see demonstrations of the circular economy in action. Parts of our sector are leading on this front and there are scale interventions that only really need the appropriate government policy to delivery environmental, economic and social benefits to Australia.”

He says this was clearly demonstrated on the tours in the Victoria context.

“Industry is leading on parts of this and it’s important to acknowledge the good work being done locally.

“A big thanks to all our partners for coming on board and collaborating with us.”

This article was published in the December issue of Waste Management Review. 

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Recycling plastic the natural way: Natures Organics

Natures Organics explains its journey to producing products made from 100 per cent recycled plastic.

It’s been a steep learning curve since personal care manufacturer Natures Organics launched in 1981.

With a focus on plant-based ingredients and pioneering environmentally responsible formulations, Natures Organics has had to make tough decisions in its manufacturing of products such as laundry liquids, floor and surface cleaners and body wash.

With recycled plastic pellets expensive and difficult to source, the company began using recycled plastics around 10 years ago. The bold move was no easy decision, as Natures Organics found it difficult to swap out virgin plastic stock for recycled plastic pellets.

Over the past decade, technical modifications allowed it to produce 100 per cent recycled PET in its products and the company has since led the way in maintaining this structure.

As an Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation member within the co-regulatory body’s membership of more than 1400 members, Natures Organics has already matched and exceeded the voluntary 2025 National Packaging Targets.

It is now encouraging more businesses to use its resources and networks to meet the targets.

In recent years, Natures Organics has been able to match the sustainability of its packaging in line with its original environmental goals.

For many brands, changing the look of a product is usually a marketing strategy. However, when Natures Organics redesigned the bottles of its Organic Care range in early 2019, the purpose was environmental.

Natures Organics uses pellets of Australian recycled plastics to mould and blow all of the bottles for its nine brands of liquid products. Nowadays nearly all of the 43 million bottles the company produces a year, across a range of 130 products, are made from 100 per cent recycled plastic. Likewise, every plastic is 100 per cent recyclable.

“We call it bottles from bottles – which is very important in a sector that still relies heavily on bottles and containers made from virgin plastic derived from petroleum,” says Nancy Clay, Commercial Manager of Natures Organics.

Natures Organics is well aware that the relationship between consumers and plastic is souring. In saying that, the company acknowledges the challenges of finding a practical alternative for liquid products as they are generally advantageous over glass and metal across price, flexibility, weight and durability.

“I think the push from Australian consumers is that they don’t want plastic at all, especially after seeing the War on Waste. Many consumers want plastic free options,” Nancy says.

“Unfortunately in our space that is not easy or practical to implement.”

The Melbourne-based manufacturer recently found a solution to coloured, dark or black plastics in their plant-based hair and skin products that were difficult for materials recovery facilities to detect. In response, the company stripped out pigments and moved to clear bottles allowing them to be passed through the recycling stream.

Nancy says the latest modification is just another step along a sometimes unpredictable road to more sustainable packaging. It hasn’t always been a smooth ride for Natures Organics with the company encountering difficulties in some areas of its packaged products.

New technical challenges arose when Nature Organics produced large bottles requiring handles for their laundry liquids made from 100 per cent HDPE. The bottles split, deformed or failed. The company discovered that some virgin HDPE plastic was still required and for this reason now use a 50:50 mix in HDPE bottles.

Then there was the challenges of price and supply. It was not until 2016, Nancy says, that a steady supply of recycled pellets was available in Australia. Yet that came at an additional cost of about 15 per cent more than virgin plastics.

More recently, the rapid emergence of compostable bioplastics on the Australian and global market seemed like an attractive alternative to petroleum-based plastics.

As a company that distinguishes itself in the market as a plant-based range of brands and products, these corn-based plastics appeared compatible with the company’s environmental ethos.

It was an option worth pursuing, Nancy says. However, the company’s first compostable plant-based containers immediately hit two hurdles.

First, the current generation of bioplastics must be composted in industrial facilities at temperature of at least 60° C and high humidity, which were not available in Australia. And, second, if they were mixed in with conventional waste plastics, they were not benign. Compostable bioplastics could contaminate entire batches of potentially recyclable plastics, creating an unintended negative environmental impact.

“It’s hard to distinguish between the bioplastic waste bottles and conventional waste plastics. I think both consumers and recyclers were confused,” she says.

So, bioplastics were shelved for the time being and Natures Organics went back to recycled plastic pellets.

While consideration is being given towards plastic-free packaging, Nancy says that ultimately it’s the circular economy model that currently offers the best solutions.

Today, the company buys only pellets of recycled plastic waste that have been processed onshore.

Natures Organics uses its own labels to identify its bottles as made from recycled plastics. The upcoming extension of APCO’s Australasian Recycling Label to include the recycled content of packaging will also align with its business model.

However, without greater demand for recycled plastic pellets, there won’t be more investment in the recycling infrastructure that’s needed to boost resource recovery in Australia. Nancy says that companies therefore need to help drive demand for recycled materials every step of the way.

And, while plastics are not infinitely recyclable, the environmental returns are considerable.

Every used bottle that makes its way into the recycling stream can be reprocessed 10 times, avoiding the production of ten virgin plastic bottles.

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APCO releases packaging progress data

Of the 5.45 million tonnes of post-consumer packaging placed on the Australian market in 2017-18, 2.67 million tonnes was recovered, according to a new report from the Australia Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO).

The report also reveals that Australia has exceeded the 30 per cent average recycled content National Packaging Target.

“Today’s benchmark data has confirmed post-consumer recycled content across all packaging was 1.9 million tonnes, or 35 per cent of total packaging,” the report reads.

“With the 30 per cent recycled content target now exceeded, APCO will deliver a consultation process with industry to develop a new, more ambitious target.”

According to an APCO statement, the Australian Packaging Consumption and Resource Recovery Data report maps the complete packaging ecosystem in granular detail, highlighting the performance of key areas within the system.

“The significant research project combines data from packaging manufacturers, packaging reprocessors, material recovery facilities, container deposit scheme operators, and includes analysis of Australian import and export data,” the statement reads.

Of Australia’s 5.45 million tonnes of packaging, more than half was paper and paperboard at 53.2 per cent, followed by glass packaging at 23.3 per cent, plastic packaging at 19.6 per cent and metal packaging at 3.9 per cent.

The report reveals that paper and paperboard have the highest recovery rate at 63 per cent, followed by metal packaging at 48 per cent, glass packaging at 46 per cent and plastic packaging at 16 per cent.

Additionally, the report details how Australia is tracking on the delivery of the 2025 National Packaging Targets – with new benchmark data in areas of packaging recyclability, recycled content uptake and plastic packaging recycling.

The targets aim for 100 per cent of all Australia’s packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025 or earlier. The report shows that as of 2018, 86 per cent, or 4.7 million tonnes of all packaging in the market is recyclable.

According to APCO CEO Brooke Donnelly, the single biggest challenge identified in the data is the recycling rate of plastic packaging.

The National Packaging Targets set the target for 70 per cent of Australia’s plastic packaging to be recycled or composted by 2025.

APCO’s data reveals that currently, only 16 per cent of plastic packaging is being recycled or composted for future use.

“Comprehensive and robust benchmarking data is one of the critical milestones in our delivery of the 2025 National Packaging Targets – a process that shows how Australia is performing currently and, most importantly, what needs to change in order to make the 2025 Targets a reality,” Ms Donnelly said. 

“It’s encouraging to see such a significant majority of packaging – 86 per cent – is able to be recycled in the current system. However, what the data confirms for us is that plastic is the critical issue that needs to be addressed.” 

Ms Donnelly said APCO will release its 2025 strategic document in February 2020, which sets out a series of key strategies to support Australia’s delivery of the targets.

“Plastics will be a central focus for this plan, along with a range of interventions and recommendations designed to close the gap between recyclable (86 per cent) and recycled (49 per cent) packaging in Australia,” Ms Donnelly said. 

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