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.

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