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.

Related stories: 

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.

To subscribe to Waste Management Review with free home delivery click here

Related stories: 

Melbourne composting facility receives final EPA approval

An industrial composting facility in Melbourne’s Dandenong South has received final environmental approval from EPA Victoria.

The facility is operated by international waste management company Sacyr, with a biological and air treatment system designed by Waste Treatment Technologies.

The $65 million facility operates under a contract negotiated by the Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group (MWRRG) on behalf of eight councils.

“Through this collaborative contract, Sacyr Environment Australia receives enough kerbside material to run its facility, which has processing capacity of up to 120,000 tonnes annually,” a MWRRG statement reads.

The facility is a part of Melbourne’s food and green waste processing network, which has a target of 400,000 tonnes of capacity by 2021, as set out in the Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Implementation Plan.

The facility, operating with conditional approval from the EPA, has processed household food and green waste from Melbourne’s south east since May 2019.

Related stories:

Out and about with Costa: Penrith City Council

International Compost Awareness Week is coming up in the first week of May and Costa is excited, writes Mia Ecob, Resource Recovery Education Officer at Penrith City Council. 

Penrith City Council had the privilege of giving Costa and his team from Gardening Australia a sneak peek into what makes Penrith a recognised leader in sustainable waste management.

For over 10 years, Penrith City Council has diverted a significant amount of organic material from being sent to landfill, resulting in great environmental benefits and financial savings. In ensuring all residents are sorting their waste correctly, Penrith City Council’s Resource Recovery Field Team engages with residents daily to educate on the importance of sorting waste.

Costa, Penrith’s Waste and Resource Recovery Strategy Ambassador, is very enthusiastic about the positive sustainability and environmental behaviours Penrith has instilled into its management of waste over the years. One of these practices includes council’s implementation the food and garden organics (FOGO) service back in 2009. 

As Costa loves composting, he wanted to see how it can be done on a large scale. Two members from Penrith City Council’s Resource Recovery Field Team, Kate Bradshaw and Drew Turner, detailed to Costa how this could be achieved, while also educating residents on how to minimise the amount of contamination found within the organics bin. The benefits of having our field officers out and about in the community demonstrates the friendly and helpful education approach to waste.

Having a holistic approach to getting everyone across the community involved in composting through the FOGO bin service enables positive results to be achieved. Simple things such as placing food waste into the council provided green compostable bags and removing food waste from packaging are just some of the ways to improve sorting behaviours.

The commitment Penrith’s Waste and Resource Recovery Department has in achieving 70 per cent diversion of waste from landfill by 2021 is well on track. By continuing to focus on educating and supporting the community with their sorting habits, highlights the benefits of providing long-term social, economic and environmental value in moving towards a circular economy of reducing waste.

Catch Penrith City Council’s Resource Recovery Field Team talking all things waste with Costa on ABC’s Gardening Australia 1 May. 

Related stories:

X