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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Woolworths launches Loop reusable packaging program

Beginning mid-2021, Woolworths shoppers with have access to sustainable home delivery through TerraCycle’s zero-waste reusable packaging solution Loop.

According to a Woolworths statement, the program allows customers to consume a variety of commonly used products such as washing detergent, shampoo, juice and ice cream in customised, brand-specific, durable packaging that is delivered in a specially designed reusable shipping tote.

After use, the packaging is collected or can be dropped back in store, where it is cleaned, refilled and reused.

Woolworths Quality, Health & Sustainability General Manager Alex Holt said Loop is just the beginning of a long term partnership agreement between Woolworths and TerraCycle.

“We are pleased to be working with innovative partners like TerraCycle to lead the way in offering new and cutting-edge solutions to cut down on plastic waste,” Ms Holt said.

“Helping bring Loop to Australia is a further step in our long term ambition to reduce our impact on the environment and support a circular economy.”

Loop Global Business Development Vice President Anthony Rossi said Loop is the first global platform to offer consumers a way to move from disposability to durability with their purchases.

“Woolworths is the perfect partner to bring Loop to Australia, due to its operational scale and commitment to environmental sustainability,” Mr Rossi said.

“Together, we will help eliminate the idea of waste and bring a better product experience to consumers.”

Launching the partnership this week, Industry, Science and Technology Minister Karen Andrews praised Woolworths’ commitment to sustainability.

“I congratulate Woolworths for showing the initiative to embrace a recycling solution that will significantly reduce its waste packaging,” Ms Andrews said.

“It is vitally important that both governments and the private sector play their part in reducing waste and embracing recycling solutions. I look forward to other businesses adopting similar initiatives.”

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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.

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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.

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Atritor Turbo Separator

The Atritor Turbo Separator was developed to separate products from their packaging, releasing them for recycling or disposal.

Available through Australian distributor Wastech Engineering, the Turbo Separator enables up to 99 per cent of dry or liquid products to be separated from their packaging with minimal contamination. This allows the contents to be used for compost, anaerobic digestion or animal feedstock. The Turbo Separator can be manufactured in a range of throughputs up to 20 tonnes per hour.

Additionally, the process is so efficient that it leaves the packaging relatively intact and clean to facilitate downstream recycling. According to Wastech, when compared to other methods of packaging separation, the Turbo Separator achieves higher separation efficiencies with lower power consumption, resulting in reduced operating costs.

The Turbo Separator is ideal for separating out of specification, out of date and mislabeled products from a variety of packaging, including cans, plastic bottles and boxes. The diverse range of applications includes the separation of paper from gypsum in plasterboard, general foodstuffs from their packaging and liquids from their containers.

It is available complete with infeed and outfeed conveyors and liquid transfer pumps. The Turbo Separator, with its durable construction and adjustable paddles, enables the separation of a wide variety of products. Each Turbo Separator installation can be configured to suit multiple applications and a variable shaft speed enables enhanced separation efficiency. The machine is available in mild steel and stainless steel to suit the application.

TOMRA Sorting’s near-infrared technology

TOMRA Sorting leverages near-infrared technology across a range of specialised products to increase revenues and reduce costs and the impact on the environment.

The near-infrared technology is ideal for packaging, municipal solid waste, thermoplastics, paper, commercial and industrial and construction and demolition waste, organic waste, refuse-derived fuel, bulky waste, wood and thermoplastics.

In particular the introduction of the laser object detection (LOD) now allows for sorting materials with no specific infrared signals.

Laser object detection sensors use a 3D laser system to physically detect items the spectrometer can’t detect. This now allows considerably improved removal of contaminants from various product streams.

Its multifunctional Autosort has been upgraded to include a user-friendly touchscreen to allow users to access various sorting programs.

Available through Australian supplier Cemac technologies, the company also offers select TOMRA technology to suit each application.

TOMRA Sorting’s Autosort flake combines colour detection with enhanced material and metal objects simultaneously to offer better purity and yield with the one machine.

Its Autosort fines was built to sort small fractions across multiple applications with a wider mechanical setup.

TOMRA Sorting’s Finder is able to target metal objects using patented z-tect technology which leverages artificial intelligence to detect and ignore disturbing noise and lead to a stable purity and high yield.

ALDI announces new packaging commitments

ALDI Australia has announced it will cut a quarter of all plastic packaging from its range by 2025, as part of a wide range of new packaging commitments.

ALDI Australia Managing Director Buying Oliver Bongardt made the announcement in front of 100 ALDI business partners at a supplier forum this week.

“In an act of transparency and authenticity, ALDI has committed to annually report on its progress towards this goal,” Mr Bongardt said.

“It’s our ambition to reduce the amount of plastic in our stores, while in parallel stimulating Australia’s circular economy and ensuring our business partners have commercially viable packaging options to reduce their reliance on virgin materials.”

Mr Bongardt said all single use plastics, such as cotton buds and plastic plates, will also be removed from ALDI stores by the end of 2020.

“Despite our desire, and that of our customers, to remove plastics immediately, this process will take years not weeks,” Mr Bongardt said.

“Today’s announcement is to clearly demonstrate that we are completely invested in the important journey of reducing waste, and we stand committed to quantify our progress over the coming years.”

Additionally, Mr Bongardt announced that ALDI had diverted six billion single-use plastic bags from entering the environment, the equivalent of 40,000 tonnes of soft plastic, since opening 18 years ago.

Mr Bongardt said ALDI acknowledged the pressure these commitments would place on their businesses and has resourced a team to support the transition.

In response to the announcement, Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation CEO Brooke Donnelly said ALDI was demonstrating that sustainable packaging could drive a range of positive commercial benefits.

“I’d like to acknowledge ALDI on their new sustainability commitments, which represent a significant contribution to sustainable packaging in Australia and an important milestone in our work to reach the 2025 National Packaging Targets,” Ms Donnelly said.

“It’s particularly impressive to see the process ALDI has undertaken to involve their suppliers, effectively bringing a range of businesses along on their sustainable packaging journey and delivering an efficient, cost effective approach to the entire supply chain.”

ALDI’s packaging commitments:

— Reduce plastic packaging by 25 per cent by 2025.

— Actively reduce the amount of plastic packaging in the fresh produce range and transition to more sustainable alternatives where possible, producing no increase in food waste.

— Phase out problematic and unnecessary single-use plastics by the end of 2020.

— Prioritise the reduction or replacement of difficult to recycle black plastic packaging.

— Make ALDI’s exclusive range packaging 100 per cent recyclable, reusable or compostable by the end of 2025.

— By the end of 2020, all paper and pulp-based packaging in ALDI’s everyday range will be either Forest Stewardship Council certified, Programme for the Endorsement of Forest certified or 70 per cent recycled.

— Include, at minimum, 30 per cent recycled materials in plastic packaging by the end of 2025.

— Use the Australasian Recycling Label on all ALDI branded products by the end of 2022.

— Further educate customers on the importance of packaging waste reduction.

— Publicly report against all goals from 2020.

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Veolia and Nestlé partner to tackle plastic waste

Veolia and Nestlé have announced a partnership to work on waste collection and sorting, and recycling plastic material with an emphasis on flexible plastic packaging.

Projects will focus on eleven priority countries across Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe.

The collaboration will explore technologies to establish viable models of recycling in different countries, including chemical recycling technologies like pyrolysis which is capable of producing virgin quality plastic.

These potential technologies will help Nestlé increase the recycled content of its bottled water packaging to 35 per cent and its overall product packaging to 15 per cent by 2025.

Nestlé Executive Vice President, Head of Operations Magdi Batato said plastic waste is a challenge that requires an ecosystem of solutions that work simultaneously.

“This partnership is another specific step to accelerate our efforts in addressing the critical issue of plastic waste.

“Leveraging on Veolia’s technology and expertise, we will start with pilot projects in multiple countries with the intention of scaling these up globally,” he said.

In late 2018 Nestlé committed to making 100 per cent of its packaging recyclable or reusable by 2025.

Veolia Senior Executive Vice-President for Development, Innovation and Markets Laurent Auguste said the company welcomed the partnership as part of Veolia’s quest for a more circular economy of plastics.

“Our expertise in resource recovery and recycling has positioned us to tackle this issue with global brands and other value-chain actors across all continents.

“We believe it is time to move towards more recycling of materials, and we are happy to help our clients be ever more inventive so they can keep improving our quality of life, whilst protecting our planet and its resources,” he said.

The partnership follows a series of initiative’s taken by both companies to accelerate action to reduce plastic waste.

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Results of National Litter Index survey released

The Keep Australia Beautiful 2017-18 National Report has published results from its National Litter Index survey, providing a separate more detailed report on survey results for Tasmania.

National results show a decrease of 10.3 per cent in the number of litter items counted in 2017-18 compared with 2016-17 continuing a long term national trend of reduced litter levels.

The most significant decreases were 16.8 per cent for takeaway food and beverage packaging, 15.2 per cent in other paper, 12.7 per cent in general other litter items, 14.0 per cent in beverage containers and 6.4 per cent in cigarette litter.

The results for Tasmania indicated a decrease of 6.4 per cent in litter items and 6.2 per cent in volumes of litter across most categories.

While decreases were recorded at major roads and highways, retail precincts, car parks and shopping centres, there were increases in litter recorded at recreational parks, beaches, and residential streets.

Industrial precincts, retail shopping precincts and shopping centres had the highest numbers of litter items driven largely by cigarette butts which account for around two thirds of the overall litter.

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Compelling proposition

A shift in business practices would support a significant increase in procurement of recyclables, writes Matt Genever, Director Resource Recovery at Sustainability Victoria.

Read moreCompelling proposition

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