• APCO's Lesley Fox addresses conference delegates. Image: Australian Organic Limited
    APCO's Lesley Fox addresses conference delegates. Image: Australian Organic Limited
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The inaugural Australian Organic conference in Brisbane saw a focus on the 2025 National Packaging Targets, with discussions on a new educational campaign for the Australasian Recycling Label (ARL) and innovations in packaging for the wine industry.

Established in 2018, the 2025 Targets include:

  • 100 per cent reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging;
  • 70 per cent of plastic packaging being recycled or composted;
  • 50 per cent of average recycled content included in packaging (revised from 30% in 2020); and
  • The phase out of problematic and unnecessary single-use plastics packaging. 

Lesley Fox, partnerships and projects officer at Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO), said the not-for-profit organisation driving delivery of the targets would implement a new educational campaign for small to medium-sized enterprises in coming months.

“We work closely with businesses of all sizes to provide them with the tools and resources they need to transform their packaging, however, we are excited to announce a new campaign to encourage, and guide SMEs to incorporate more sustainable packaging principles into their operations,” she said. 

“We recognise SMEs often have fewer resources to support the changes they need to make, so one of the key focuses of the campaign helping them to start using the ARL on their packaging. 

“Knowing what can and can’t be recycled can be confusing, not only for consumers, but for businesses too, and this initiative will help address this issue.” 

APCO is working in partnership with the Australian Institute of Packaging, the National Retail Association, and the Australian Food and Grocery Council to deliver the education program. 

Australia’s wine industry “needs consumer behaviour to change”

The conference provided the ideal platform for participants from the country’s $40 billion wine industry to discuss the latest trends in the industry’s sustainability efforts, these efforts’ challenges and opportunities, and on why consumer education will be key to supporting the industry in meeting the Targets. 

A session was chaired by leading Australian wine expert, Mike Bennie, with the panel consisting of Kieran Hirlam, project team manager for Affinity Labs; Michael Rogers, CEO of Cutler Sustainable Packaging; and Sarah McElholum, group sustainability and product quality manager for Endeavour Group.

Mike Bennie chaired a panel to discuss sustainable packaging in Australia’s wine industry with Sarah McElholum and Kieran Hirlam. Michael Rogers, CEO, Cutler Sustainable Packaging joined via Zoom. Image: Australian Organic Limited
Mike Bennie chaired a panel to discuss sustainable packaging in Australia’s wine industry with Sarah McElholum and Kieran Hirlam. Michael Rogers, CEO, Cutler Sustainable Packaging joined via Zoom. Image: Australian Organic Limitec

During the session, Bennie said industry needed to help educate and change attitudes of consumers, with many enthusiasts steeped in the nostalgic experience of purchasing and cellaring bottles of wine.

“Australian winemakers were early adopters of the screwcap bottles, and initially, many traditionalists were reluctant to believe they would work as well as cork, however, they are now considered mainstream in industry,” he said. 

“We know consumers are much more conscious about making sustainable purchases and doing the right thing for the planet, so we need to start shifting consumer behaviour to increase purchases of wine sold in easy recyclable products, such as pouches or aluminium cans.” 

Research from the Australia Wine Research Institute has shown glass packaging is one of the hot spots in the industry’s environmental performance, due to the large amount of energy required to heat and melt glass. The weight of the glass also has flow on impacts throughout supply chain efficiencies. 

Conference delegates were advised that advances in glass production have enabled wine bottles to weigh as little as 330g, compared to the standard 500g, or 750g for premium bottles, which can reduce the bottle’s lifecycle impacts by up to 18 per cent. 

However, it was also noted that significant and positive environmental impacts could be achieved with cask wine packaging, which reduces lifecycle impacts by 49 per cent, compared to a standard 500g bottle. 

According to Bennie, while Australia was an innovator in the industry, companies in the UK were leading the way with innovation to reduce carbon footprint, putting a spotlight on Garcon Wines as an example.

“Garcon Wines package their product in an eco-flat recyclable wine bottle, which is 87 per cent lighter in weight and 40 per cent smaller, while the Frugal brand is making wine bottles out of 94 per cent recycled paperboard with a food grade pouch, which is five times lighter than glass,” he continued. 

“These are fabulous innovative alternatives to glass, however, at this stage, technologies like PET and the Frugal bottle are yet to be determined that they meet the sustainability parameters of the Australian recycling architecture. 

“While these have proven themselves in Europe, Australia has less advanced recycling technology, and we have to understand if they can be diverted from landfill.” 

Investment in research and development continues to be a focus for Australia’s wine industry, and packaging companies with a focus on long-term sustainability. 

“There’s currently research underway for stand-up pouches, and a bespoke aluminium cask for the Australian market, however, as an industry, we’re very focused on ensuring any new packaging doesn’t introduce long-term environmental issues,” Bennie concluded.

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