Industry, government and community tackle plastic waste

Industry giants, community groups and government bodies came together to tackle the issue of plastic packaging waste in Australia.

Consumer goods manufacturers Coca Cola, Danone, Unilever and Kellogg’s, tech companies Fuji Xerox and Dell, supermarkets Coles and Aldi and senior figures from the NSW Environment Protection Authority met with local community groups to discuss the future of plastic packaging in consumer goods.

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The event was hosted by the Boomerang Alliance with the support of Bloomberg Australia, and examined the infrastructure holes that need to be filled in order to improve Australia’s capacity for waste collection, processing and recycling.

Representatives from Clean Up Australia, Responsible Cafes, Bye Bye Plastic, Planet Ark, Close the Loop and the local Sydney councils of Randwick, Waverly and Inner West Councils also added to the discussion.

A guest panel of speakers shared their expertise and included Australian Packaging Covenant CEO Brooke Donnelly, Waste Management Association Australia CEO Gayle Sloan, Founder of BioPak Richard Fine, and Nature’s Organics CEO Jo Taranto.

Ms Sloan said every council’s waste management has the same definition in their contracts regarding what’s recyclable.

“We have conveyors and depending on the money and infrastructure available, they’ll use infrareds to split out the different types of plastics,” she said.

Most material recovery facilities do this but at a cost and we don’t have enough people buying back [the recycled material]. That’s the problem.”

Mr Fine said it is important that companies are marketing their products as compostable get certified to a recognised standard.

“There’s a lot of greenwashing out there providing vague claims of ‘biodegradable’ which is confusing the consumer and damaging the industry as a lot of these products will simply break down and fragment into small pieces,” he said.

Pictured left to right: Richard Fine, Brooke Donnelly, Justin Dowel, Jo Toranto, Gayle Sloan, Jayne Paramor.

Plastics recycling increases: survey

Plastics packaging recycling has increased over the past year by almost 2 per cent, according to the Australian National Recycling and Recovery Survey.

Last year, the Australian Packaging Covenant (APC) commissioned Envisage Works and Sustainable Resource Use (SRU) to undertake the 2015–16 National Recycling and Recovery Survey (NRRS) for plastics packaging.

However, although recycling rates have enjoyed a steady increase, the APC argued the results highlight a real need for Australia to understand and support plastics closed loop economies, particularly in relation to soft plastics.

The results show an improved plastics packaging recycling rate of 31.1 per cent, up from 29.3 per cent on the previous year.

Approximately 263,000 tonnes of plastics packaging was recycled across Australia during the survey period, with a total consumption figure of 844,300 tonnes.

Plastic packaging recovery saw a relatively minor decrease of 5,500 tonnes on the 268,500 tonnes of plastics packaging recycled in 2014–15.

This represents a decrease of 2 per cent in overall recovery from 2014–15. In comparison, total consumption was down by 11 per cent in the same reporting period. The APC said the decrease was driven mostly by a drop in reported locally reprocessed plastic packaging, in tandem with steady exports of plastic packaging recyclate.

The APC noted another factor that may have influenced the drop in recovery are low oil and gas prices that have resulted in cheaper virgin resins, the main competitor to recycled plastics. A general oversupply of virgin polymer manufacturing capacity internationally has also compounded competitive pressure.

A total of 48,100 tonnes of flexible plastics were recycled in 2015–16 compared to 49,700 tonnes in 2014–15. This represents a 3 per cent decrease in overall recovery year on year, and is a similar result to 2013–14.

The APC said soft plastics have been addressed in their new five-year strategic plan, and has been further explored at the recent Packaging Sustainability Think Tank in February.


Australian Packaging Covenant announces agreement

The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) and Packaging Council of New Zealand (PAC.NZ) have announced a new collaborative Trans-Tasman agreement to drive packaging sustainability.

The two organisations signed a Memorandum of Understanding at the Packaging & Processing Innovation and Design Awards held in Sydney on the 8th of March.

Under the agreement, APCO and PAC.NZ will work together to share knowledge, support research, address regional sustainability policy issues, collaborate on member resources and solve common problems for consumer packaging and the packaging supply chain.

Trish Hyde, APCO Chief Executive Officer, said the agreement was a significant step forward for packaging sustainability in Australasia.

“Both our organisations are working towards common goals and objectives, and this agreement allows us to take a Trans-Tasman approach and strengthen partnerships, embrace innovation and better support our members”, Ms Hyde said.

Harry Burkhardt, President of PAC.NZ agreed. “Many APC and PAC.NZ members operate across both New Zealand and Australia so it is vital that we share knowledge and work together, Mr Burkhardt sai.

“We look forward to collaboratively working towards a seamless integration between initiatives, which are adopted by members of the Australian Packaging Covenant being applied in the New Zealand context. This will include sharing reporting tools that will enable our members to undertake peer-to-peer assessment with their Australian counterparts.”

Picture: Harry Burkhardt, President of PAC.NZ, and Trish Hyde, CEO of APCO, sign a Memorandum of Understanding at the Packaging & Processing Innovation and Design Awards.