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.

Related stories:

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. 

Related stories:

APCO announces new Board Directors

The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) has appointed its Board of Directors for 2020, welcoming industry leaders from across the waste and recycling, packaging and sustainability sectors.

The new Board Directors were officially appointed at APCO’s Annual General Meeting in Melbourne.

According to an APCO statement, Veolia Projects Director Lee Smith will serve as Industry Association Director for a term of three years.

“Also joining the board in the role of Brand Owner Director is Chris Foley, Head of Energy and Environment for Kmart Group for a period of two years,” the statement reads.

“Chris will be replacing long standing board member Renata Lopes.”

Additionally, Reece Group Packaging Manager Jason Goode has returned to the role of Brand Owner Director for a term of three years.

APCO Board Chair Sam Andersen said the covenant was excited to welcome a wealth and diversity of industry experience to the APCO Board.

“This has been a remarkable year of growth and progress for APCO, and we look forward to an even more productive year in 2020 with the support and guidance of the new Board Directors,” Mr Andersen said.

“I’d also like to formally thank our outgoing board directors, David and Renata, who both brought invaluable contributions to our board and generously shared their vast knowledge and experience for the benefit of our members.”

The full 2020 Board includes Sam Andersen, Andrew Petersen, Keith Chessell, Lee Smith, Jacky Nordsvan, Anne Astin, Trent Bartlett, Jason Goode and Chris Foley.

Related stories:

APCO hosts annual sustainable packaging awards

Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environmental Management Trevor Evans has reaffirmed the Federal Government’s commitment to drive the delivery of the 2025 National Packaging Targets.

Speaking to an audience of 180 at this year’s Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) Awards in Melbourne, Mr Evans congratulated APCO on its progress thus far.

Going “off script” Mr Evans told attendees that before entering politics he served as the National Retail Association’s CEO.

“It’s fair to say that all those years ago, APCO had a mixed reputation, as it looked to take the next steps in its journey,” Mr Evans said.

“I think I can be blunt in saying that under Sam and Brooke’s Leadership it has found direction and all of the passion and drive that it needs to take APCO into the future.”

APCO CEO Brooke Donnelly expressed similar sentiments, telling the crowd that over the covenant’s 20 years there had been both good and bad moments.

“Especially over the last two or three years, it’s been a very challenging time. There was a time where we weren’t sure we would be here this evening, that we wouldn’t be able to continue to do the work that we do,” Ms Donnelly said.

“But we’ve managed to come back from that and find a way forward – a way that is so much more progressive, that is acknowledging the contribution that industry can make, and how industry and government can work together collectively in this space.”

Ms Donnelly added that much of that work came to fruition with the 2025 National Packaging Targets.

“We went to the MEM meeting in April 2018, and got asked a very big question: we’ve got this problem, it’s called the China National Sword, what can we do about that?” Ms Donnelly said.

Ms Donnelly said National Sword represents a tipping point and a time where APCO as an organisation, and Australia as a country, had rethink its approach to waste and resource recovery.

“Kudos to the Australian Government for agreeing on a target – just one guiding light to get us where we need to be, and to empower and endorse APCO to be able to do the work to get us there,” she said.

This year’s APCO Annual Awards took place on the organisations 20th anniversary and showcased businesses leading the way in sustainable packaging design and innovation across 18 separate categories.

“Tonight marks the 20th anniversary of APCO, and reflecting on the importance of the organisation’s work, it might just be the time to put our heads together this evening and think about a more exciting name for your awards night,” Mr Evans joked.

The assistant minister said that if politics had taught him anything, it was the importance of selling your message. He then made two suggestions, the “Pulitzer Prize for Packaging” and the “Walkley’s for Waste”.

According to Ms Donnelly, finalists and winners were selected based on their performance in sustainable packaging design, recycling initiatives and product stewardship programs to develop sustainable supply chains.

The event’s premier award, Sustainable Packaging Excellence, went to supply chain specialists CHEP, for their work delivering a global reusable packaging model.

BioPak took out the Outstanding Achievement in Leadership Award for its commitment to sustainability initiatives, including the development of compostable packaging for single-use food service items.

This year’s event also featured two new categories – High Performing New Member, which went to Marechal Australia, and the APCO Sustainability Champion Award, a category recognising individual achievement.

The Sustainability Champion Award went to Endeavour Drinks Quality and Sustainability Manager Diarmaid O’Mordha.

Mr O’Mordha was recognised for his commitment to improving packaging sustainability across the wine industry supply chain, and working in partnership with APCO to develop the Sustainable Packaging Guidelines for the beverage industry.

“All of tonight’s winners and finalists have demonstrated industry leadership and excellence in sustainable packaging,” Ms Donnelly said.

“While these initiatives represent different approaches to this challenge – research, design, innovation or collaboration – what they collectively demonstrate is that Australian industry is driving forward with the positive business case for sustainable packaging.”

In his keynote address, Mr Evan’s also touched on the Federal Government’s plans and policy priorities in the wider waste and resource recovery space.

“This is an area of policy that has very quickly gone from zero to hero, and in a short period of time we are seeing that rapid transition. These issues take centre stage in the national conversation,” he said.

Mr Evans added that for too long, government’s across Australia have not be sufficiently forward thinking when it comes to waste.

“It is defiantly the case that the policies that have been brought to the table in the last few years have been diverging in all sorts of directions,” Mr Evans said.

“I’m sure many of you in this room wouldn’t need convincing about the need for harmonisation and national leadership across all of the jurisdictions and all the levels of government.”

In reference to the COAG export ban, Mr Evans said that while the phased ban represents a significant step forward, it needs to be backed up by a series of simultaneous policy changes.

“We need appropriate funding that will drive the investments that we need to see in Australia, to create confidence and certainty to help industry make those investments,” he said.

“The achievements on show tonight demonstrate the strength of Australian industry’s leadership on the sustainable packaging issue.”

The 2019 APCO Awards winners are:

• Sustainable Packaging Excellence- CHEP Australia
• Outstanding Achievement in Industry Leadership- BioPak
• Outstanding Achievement in Packaging Design- Panasonic Australia
• Outstanding Achievement in Sustainable Packaging Operations- Amgen Australia
• APCO Sustainability Champion- Diarmaid O’Mordha
• High Performing New Member- Marechal Australia
• Chemicals & Agriculture Sector- LyondellBasell Australia
• Clothing, Footwear & Fashion Sector- Hugo Boss Australia
• Electronics Sector- Dell Australia
• Food & Beverage Sector- Red Rooster Foods
• Homewares Sector- LEGO Australia
• Large Retailer Sector- Coles Supermarkets Australia
• Logistics Sector- CHEP Australia
• Machinery & Hardware Sector- RYCO Group
• Packaging Manufacturer Sector- Detmold Packaging
• Personal Care Sector- ABC Tissue Products
• Pharmaceuticals Sector- Amgen Australia
• Telecommunications Sector- SingTel Optus

Related stories:

Looking to 2020 and beyond: APCO

Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) CEO Brooke Donnelly provides an overview of some of the collaborative, sector-led projects that are helping to scale up the circular economy for packaging here in Australia.

The Collective Impact Model is at the heart of APCO’s work – a framework that engages a diverse range of participants who share the common interest of finding a new and sustainable approach to packaging.

This year a critical part of our focus has been to apply this approach at the sectoral level, by establishing and delivering a range of industry-led projects that can help highly motivated and willing sectors to address their unique packaging challenges.

APCO’s work with the wine industry began in 2018, with a two-day workshop at the Dorrien Estate to explore the impact of the 2025 targets for people working on the ground in the industry.

Combining site visits to packaging suppliers, retail operations and recycling plants, the session was designed to help participants see first-hand the entire packaging journey. By involving the complete value chain – including packaging suppliers, retailers, and wine producers and distributors – participants were able to recognise their stakeholders’ different needs and challenges, and identify any gaps in their own operations.

The most significant outcome of the day was the commitment to keep working together – and the Wine Industry Sustainable Packaging group has continued to meet regularly to explore the industry’s unique sustainable packaging challenges and potential solutions.

The group also agreed to work towards the delivery of several packaging-focused projects, including a pilot regional waste drop-off facility in the Barossa Valley, and greater data transparency, to help monitor the industry’s progress towards the 2025 Targets.

Also agreed was the plan to develop an industry-specific sustainable packaging guideline, and in October this year APCO and the Wine Industry Working Group launched the new resource together in the Barossa Valley.

Diarmaid O’Mordha, Quality and Sustainability Manager at the Endeavour Drinks Group, has been fundamental to the working group’s success. He explained that collaboration – often between unlikely partners – has been at the heart of the project.

“The idea was to set up a neutral, non-competitive space so we could develop a shared industry vision, with APCO leading,” says Mr O’Mordha.

“Working together, the industry can drive change from within, avoid the duplication of efforts, develop a platform to share information and set baselines to measure progress.”

“APCO were fantastic in connecting everyone – we couldn’t have done it without them. We were working with people in our industry we wouldn’t normally collaborate with because of commercial competition. But, with APCO’s role we were able to see ourselves as one ecosystem that everyone could benefit from – they helped put everyone at ease,” says Mr O’Mordha.

Food Services Industry

The food services sector has been another area of focus for APCO in 2019.

It’s an industry that’s undergoing a system-wide transformation globally, as businesses navigate challenges like growing public awareness around plastic waste. That’s alongside the tide of new packaging materials and operating models disrupting the way consumers engage with food service. At a policy level, many Australian jurisdictions are also considering state-wide bans on single use plastics. Businesses have been scrambling to adapt to the changing landscape, and navigate challenges like misinformation and the risk of greenwash in an effectively unregulated market.

They are all issues APCO has sought to help address with the Food Services Packaging Sustainability Guidelines, a new resource launched in October.

The guidelines were developed following extensive industry consultation, including a workshop hosted at the Qantas Campus in Sydney that brought together industry, government, and community stakeholders from across the country.

Designed through the lens of the waste hierarchy and incorporating practical case studies, the new resource will provide food service businesses with a step-by-step framework for navigating this rapidly changing industry, and support food service providers to begin making the change, while offering informed advice and tips on how to avoid making the wrong choices.

Looking to 2020, APCO has working partnerships in place with two highly motivated sectors within Australia, the dairy industry, represented by Dairy Australia, and the nursery industry, in collaboration with Greenlife Industry Australia.

Engaging sectors that are highly motivated, willing and able to address packaging sustainability will be key to progressing towards the transition to a circular economy for Australian communities.

By working together and combining material volumes, the model helps industry and government to scale up solutions and create economic tipping points to ensure solutions deliver viable interventions that are embedded as part of the institutional approach required.

The Food Services Packaging Sustainability Guidelines is available to download on the APCO website.

Related stories: 

QLD releases Plastic Pollution Reduction Plan

The Queensland Government has released a statewide Plastic Pollution Reduction Plan, which features a proposal to ban single-use plastics.

According to Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch, to effectively tackle plastic pollution, Queensland needs to reduce plastic through the design, manufacturing and packaging of products and their ultimate disposal.

“As part of Queensland’s transition to a circular economy, where waste is avoided, reused and recycled to the greatest possible extent, a fundamental shift in the way that we design, use, reuse and process plastics is needed,” Ms Enoch said.

“The majority of Queenslanders, seven out of ten, already take steps to reduce their use of single-use plastics, but there is always more we can do to tackle pollution.”

Ms Enoch said the state government has undertaken extensive consultation with industry and the community.

“This plan is an Australian first in its scope and structure, and takes a holistic approach to the complex nature and impacts of plastic throughout its supply chain, and identifies actions that can be taken,” Ms Enoch said.

“One of these actions is to introduce legislation next year, subject to consultation through a Regulatory Impact Statement, to ban the supply of plastic products including plastic straws, cutlery, plates and stirrers.”

Other actions include expanding on the Plastic Free Places in Queensland program, excluding specific single-use plastic from Queensland Government sponsored events from 2020 onwards, using government purchasing power to reduce plastic use and providing $3 million in community grants for projects geared towards long-term behavioural change.

“We will also identify and develop new businesses and markets to transform the way plastic is recovered, reused and recycled—creating new jobs and industries for Queensland,” Ms Enoch said.

Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) CEO Brooke Donnelly said APCO commended Minister Enoch and the entire Queensland Government on the plan.

“It’s been fantastic for APCO to have been closely involved with the consultation and evolution of this approach, driven by the wonderful team at the Queensland Government,” Ms Donnelly said.

“It is vital that we continue to see such strong leadership from our state governments on this critical issue, and it’s been a pleasure to actively work with solution-orientated and collaborative stakeholders in Queensland to address our collective plastics issue and drive long term, sustainable change.”

Ms Donnelly said a key consideration for the state government should be identifying opportunities for leadership in the Asia-Pacific region, with a focus on improved plastic packaging design, collection and processing systems and innovation.

Ms Donnelly said APCO is working in partnership with the Queensland Government, industry and stakeholders to delver a number initiatives identified in the plan.

Initiatives include developing a voluntary sustainable shopping bag code of practice, and working towards the delivery of the 2025 National Packaging Targets.

“The Queensland Government is committed to supporting APCO meet the 2025 National Packaging Targets, and has played an important national leadership role in areas including work on more sustainable options for heavyweight plastic shopping bags and stewardship for agricultural plastic packaging,” Ms Donnelly said.

APCO launches food packaging guidelines

The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) has launched its Food Services Packaging Sustainability Guidelines, a new resource to help Australian food service businesses achieve sustainable packaging outcomes. 

Launched at the Australasian Waste and Recycling Expo, the guide provides a step-by-step approach for food service organisations aiming to minimise packing waste and improve recycling and compositing rates.

According to APOC CEO Brooke Donnelly, the guidelines were developed in close consultation with government, the food service industry, waste handlers, composters and recyclers, academics and community groups.

“Food service businesses are facing unprecedented pressure and confusion, as they navigate not only the growing consumer backlash against problematic and single-use plastics, but also a rapidly changing marketplace that’s inundated with new materials and disruptive models,” Ms Donnelly said. 

Designed through the lens of the waste hierarchy and utilising a circular economic approach, Ms Donnelly said the resource will provide organisations with a framework for reviewing and implementing more sustainable food service packaging options, incorporating considerations such as materials and recyclability, waste capture and handling and alternative delivery models. 

The guidelines also provide real-world implementation examples that evaluate barriers to implementation and practical guidance on overcoming challenges, with case studies from Qantas, GPT Group and Hobart City Council.

Related stories:

VWMA to host industry site tours

The Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA) will be running three concurrent tours to showcase the waste and recycling industry on 25 October, as part of Waste Expo Australia.

Waste Expo Australia, one of the most comprehensive free-to-attend conferences for the waste management, resource recovery and wastewater sectors, returns to the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre 23-24 October.

The event is set to explore the future of waste and resource recovery in Australia, with a diverse schedule of speakers from local and state governments, industry bodies and the private sector.

VWMA Executive Officer Mark Smith said given the event’s focus, it made sense for the VWMA to come on board as a strategic partner.

“What better time to highlight the great work of our industry than during Waste Expo Australia,” Mr Smith said.

“This year will be a first for the Waste Expo Australia event, with the VWMA working with industry partners Alex Fraser, Australian Packaging and Covenant Organisation (APCO) and Australian Organic Recycling Association (AORA) to run three tours that will bring into focus the steps business is making to support Victoria’s recycling agenda and demonstrate circular economy in action.”

The event includes a construction and demolition tour, an organics and composting tour and a packaging supply chain tour.

The construction and demolition tour, sponsored by Alex Fraser, will include site visits to Bingo Industries West Melbourne Facility, a Level Crossing Removal Project site and the Western Ring Road construction site.

Alex Fraser Managing Director Peter Murphy said the tour will include an exclusive look at the workings of Alex Fraser’s new, awarding winning sustainable supply hub in Laverton, which was recently awarded the Sustainable Environment Award at the Victorian Transport Association’s 30th annual Australian Freight Industry Awards.

“The construction and demolition tour will take delegates along the journey that turns construction, demolition and kerbside waste into the high-quality, sustainable construction materials urgently needed to complete Victoria’s big build infrastructure projects,” Mr Murphy said.

AROA Victoria Admin Officer Doug Wilson said the Organics and Composting Tour will allow delegates to closely inspect significant infrastructure sites.

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

“Sites include South Melbourne Market’s dehydrator, Cleanaway’s depackaging facility, Sacyr’s new compost plant and Bio Gro’s comprehensive re-purposing operation.”

VWMA and APCO’s packaging tour is being delivered in partnership with Australian Food and Grocery Council and Australian Institute of Packaging.

“Industry is at a critical time where collaboration is essential to achieve the 2025 National Packaging Targets and to address challenges in the packaging supply chain,” Mr Smith.

“The tour that we’ve lined up takes delegates into the manufactures and re-manufactures working to make packaging more sustainable and driving demand for materials circualarity.”

For more information click here.

Additional activities taking place in and around Waste Expo include:

VTA / VWMA business forum on the new EPA

– Waste Expo Networking Drinks

VWMA CDS discussion dinner

– Keep Victoria Beautiful and Litter Enforcement Officer Network Meeting

Industry Tours

– All energy expo

Related stories:

APCO hosts inaugural single-use plastic packaging workshop

The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) has hosted Australia’s first national workshop dedicated to phasing out problematic and unnecessary single-use plastic packaging.

The workshop, held in Adelaide, was coordinated by APCO as part of its work to deliver the 2025 National Packaging Targets, which include phasing out all problematic and unnecessary single use plastic packaging in Australia by 2025.

According to APCO CEO Brooke Donnelly, the workshop focused on understanding national policy approaches and the role of organisations within their supply chain, in an attempt to provide greater confidence that industry actions are aligned and compatible with government priorities.

“The session also assisted APCO in defining its program of work in this space for 2020,” Ms Donnelly said.

Heysen Member and Natural Resources Committee of Parliament Chair Josh Teague delivered the keynote address on behalf of South Australian Environment Minister David Speirs.

“It was fantastic to welcome Mr Teague to speak on behalf of Minister Speirs, a great advocate and champion for addressing problematic and unnecessary single use plastic packaging in Australia,” Ms Donnelly said. 

“It’s an honour to be part of this great collaborative effort here in the leading circular city of Adelaide, as we define a pathway forward for how we translate the current national policy work into tangible outcomes for our local communities.”

Workshop representatives included:

Industry: Coles Group, Woolworths Group, ALDI, IKEA, Qantas, Coca-Cola Amatil, McDonald’s, MARS Food, Biopak, Keep Cup and Carlton & United Breweries.  

Industry Associations: National Retail Association, South Australian Independent Retailers, Australian Food and Grocery Council and the Australian Organics Recycling Association.  

Government: Commonwealth Department of the Environment and Energy, Green Industries South Australia, Australian Local Government Association, Local Government Association of the Northern Territory, WA Local Government Association, WA Department of Water and Environmental Regulation, QLD Department of Environment and Science, East Waste, Local Government Association of the South Australia, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning and the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment.

Community / Academia: University of Tasmania, Queensland University of Technology School of Design, Loop Circular Economy Platform, Keep South Australia Beautiful and the Loop Circular Economy Platform.

Related stories:

Collaborating with confidence: APCO

Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation CEO Brooke Donnelly talks about the Collective Action Group and systemic models for action on packaging resource recovery.

A lack of policy centralisation has been a concern for the waste and resource recovery industry since the 2009 National Waste Policy stalemate. In response, following the 2018 Meeting of Environment Ministers, the Federal Government announced it would shift its policy direction by taking an increasing role in waste reduction and recycling policy.

The then-Environment Minister Melissa Price announced that in order to facilitate a unified direction on waste and recycling, a new National Waste Policy would be developed. Current Waste Reduction Minister Trevor Evans said an action plan would be devised through interjurisdictional collaboration later this year.

As part of this change in direction, the Federal Government also formally committed to the National Packaging Targets.

The National Packaging Targets aim to have 100 per cent of Australian packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025 or earlier. Its an ambitious goal, given only 56 per cent of Australian packaging was recovered for recycling in 2017-18, according to a UTS Institute of Sustainable Futures study.

Additionally, the study shows of that 56 per cent, 34 per cent was exported overseas.

Endorsed by the Australian Local Government Association in 2018, the targets also seek to achieve a 30 per cent average recycled content rate by 2025, and have 70 per cent of Australia’s plastic packaging be recycled or composted by the same year.

Phasing out problematic and unnecessary single-use plastic packaging through design, innovation or the introduction of alternatives is the final target.

Despite the bold goals, Australian Packagaing Covenant Organisation (APCO) CEO Brooke Donnelly is confident the targets can be meet.

“We’re in a position where we need to drive change while we have the opportunity, hitting the ground running,” Brooke says.

“Australian industry is vibrant, proactive and really driving the activity towards a circular economy transition, which will help us all achieve the targets.”

APCO, which has been tasked with leading the implementation process, has recently established the Collective Action Group (CAG) to oversee strategic delivery of the targets.

The group is comprised of 12 leading representatives from across industry and government, including Coles, Nestle, Coca Cola Amatil, Planet Ark, the Australian Council of Recycling, SUEZ and Visy.

Additionally, representatives from the Queensland Department of Environment and the Federal Department of Environment and Energy are members.

“We have two representatives from each sector of the packaging supply chain, such as brands, community, resource and recovery and retail and manufacturing,” Brooke says.

Managing multiple high-level stakeholders with potentially competing interests can be challenging, which is why APCO employs a best-practice model of governance for all CAG meetings.

“We have a really great chair, Dr Anne Astin, an independent chair with experience in product stewardship and co-regulatory organisations,” Brooke says.

“Dr Astin understands and appreciates getting the best from member diversity and is implementing a very structured approach.”

The first meeting of CAG was officially opened by Trevor Evans, the Federal Government’s Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environmental Management in June.

“It was really great to have Minister Evans with us – it’s wonderful to see his appointment and also his energy and engagement with supporting the industry,” Brooke says.

“It’s difficult to get such senior executives in one room at the same time, so it was a really lively and informed discussion, which is fantastic.”

Brooke says CAG’s first job will be developing a set of agreed definitions for key terms such as “problematic” and “unnecessary”.

“While agreeing on definitions might appear simple, it can be quite challenging and is a critical part of the process,” she says.

“Developing a full and shared picture of the packaging landscape is the only way to achieve effective change.”

The CAG will then work to establish baseline metrics for each of the four targets, before developing and endorsing the Sustainable Packaging Pathway white paper.

To create the white paper, Brooke says the CAG will co-design a systemic model for how Australia can transition to an advanced sustainable packaging ecosystem. The white paper will then outline the steps towards making the 2025 packaging targets a reality.

“The CAG will provide advice and guidance to support the outcomes, which are the results of the 22 priority project areas in 2019,” she says.

Project areas include consumption and recycling data, materiality testing, economic analysis of system interventions and sectorial circularity project delivery.

According to Brooke, project areas are managed through six APCO advisory groups that sit under the CAG. She says all APCO research flows up to the advisory groups for analysis, before it again flows up to the CAG.

The CAG will also oversee the results of comprehensive infrastructure mapping of the current resource recovery sector for packaging and explore alternative models.

“By the time we get to the white paper, which builds on the 2018 work APCO did on problematic material issues, we will have worked with over 200 organisations and every level of government,” Brooke says.

“A huge and diverse group of people will have participated in the development of the eventual roadmap.”

Brooke says while the targets are complex and challenging, cooperation is the key to achieving them.

“It’s our job and everybody’s job to contribute. If we all just do a little bit better today we can get there,” Brooke says.

“It’s all about creating a collaborative space so we can get to the targets.”

Related stories:

X