The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) released the programme that maps the framework for measuring Australia’s progress towards the 2025 national Packaging Targets during a keynote session at the AIP Australasian Packaging Conference.
The programme identifies the seven strategic intervention points (SIPs) that are essential to manage to ensure the successful delivery of the 2025 National Packaging Targets.
The seven SIPs called for in the 2025 Monitoring Program cover the entire packaging value chain. They cover design, production, use, disposal, recover, and market creation. There are progressive, yearly targets laid out for each of the SIPs.
APCO CEO Brooke Donnelly said the new monitoring programme was widely welcomed by representatives from across the packaging value chain, including major brands; retailers and business associations; the waste and recycling industry; and the environmental community.
“The programme will provide insight at regular intervals into how well Australia is progressing towards achieving the 2025 Targets, ensuring change is sufficient to achieve critical milestones,” she said.
“The programme also highlights early intervention points to enable the system to pivot to alternative approaches if required to ensure successful outcomes.”
Suez Australia and New Zealand chief sustainability officer Justin Frank said the old adage, “what gets measured gets managed” is could not be more apt in this context.
“Monitoring data and turning it into information and insights, is critical to make informed decisions on where interventions are needed to drive forward more circular economy focused outcomes including eliminating single use plastic, recovering more recycled materials, reusing those recycled materials and importantly stimulating those domestic offtake markets,” he said.
At the conference, Dr Helen Lewis, who is an environmental consultant specialising in sustainable packaging and product stewardship, presented the new APCO programme. She said the monitoring programme provides a structured framework to achieve the 2025 Targets.
“It provides an opportunity for all stakeholders to identify when progress is insufficient or not happening at the right pace,” she said.
“If it looks like we’re not tracking towards the targets, we’re not going to back away from them. We’re going to look at what industry and government can do.”
Lewis said managing these changes simultaneously to achieve the targets in a short period of time is no easy task. But she said targets have the power to drive change, and ambitious targets can drive big change.
“Seventy percent plastics being recycled is an ambitious target. But it’s really interesting how the targets have driven so much activity throughout the industry already,” she said.
“What we’re doing is raising expectations and driving behaviour change; that’s the power of it.”
During a panel discussion following the presentation of the programme, Planet Ark CEO Paul Klymenko said the problem of being addressed by the programme is a whole-of-systems problem.
“We need a whole-of-systems solution – everyone knowing their role is essential, as is setting those milestone targets, and making it open and transparent is important,” he said.
“Having the monitoring programme provide transparent, evidence-based reporting regularly will build confidence amongst all stakeholders, most importantly consumers. This will encourage them to play their vital role in the recycling process and drive positive environmental outcomes for all.”
Klymenko said it was notable that there is now a great impetus in the corporate sector to move towards sustainable business practices.
“Whether it’s the board, shareholders, or employees, they all want to work together to achieve the targets,” he said.
“We’ve only got five years. But, even with Covid, the whole thing, the work is still happening.”
EY partner, climate change and sustainability, Terence Jeyaretnam said awareness around the waste problem has skyrocketed not just in the community, but also in corporate boardrooms.
“Board members and executive leadership teams are much more across the issue now, so they’re asking questions,” he said.
“The level of awareness is going up everywhere, and with new legislation and APCO’s work are driving increased activity everywhere to meet these targets.”
Cameron Colebatch, director-plastics, packaging and food waste section of the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, said: “From a government perspective, these aren’t aspirational targets, they can be achieved. The government wants to see industry succeed.”
Coca-Cola Amatil group head of CDS development and implementation Jeff Maguire said getting design right is a very important part of achieving the 2025 Targets.
“We must get the design of packaging right so when it is collected, it can be recycled,” he said.
He said in order for companies to invest in infrastructure for recycling and circularity, there must be a reliable supply of recyclable material in volumes sufficient for the investment to be economically viable.
“Unless you have those things in place, it is very difficult to make those investment decisions,” he said.
“CDS [container deposit schemes] have reached these outcomes in terms of collecting the materials. Also, the CDSs around the country facilitate the collection of homogenous materials.”
Maguire said it is important to look at what materials best suit the targeted outcomes.
“It’s about looking at the whole value chain, looking at the front end at what material we can put into the value chain so it comes out at the other end able to be made into a new package,” he said.
Nestlé Oceania head of corporate and external relations Margaret Stuart said understanding the whole system and value chain is important.
“When you understand the players – what’s driving them and their limitations – you’re better informed to make decisions on your own packaging,” she said.
“the more we understand the challenges everyone in the value chain are experiencing, the more we as brand owners are positioned to take appropriate action.”
Stuart said it is critical that everyone through the packaging value chain understands what needs to be done and works together.
“The Monitoring Program gives a useful framework to help everyone understand both the progress that is being made, and where we might need to change our direction,” she said.
“This will help us meet the 2025 National Packaging Targets.”
Phil Preston, Collective Action Group chair, said: “To have so many stakeholders in a project is challenging and therefore a transparent and effective monitoring process reduces delivery risk. The framework ensures we have this clear view and that we can proactively make adjustments if or when they are needed.”
And, in a statement about the release of the 2025 Monitoring Program, David Jones and Country Road Group environment manager Lok-Man Shu said: “While individual signatories will continue to contribute towards the National Packaging Targets, the Monitoring Program will provide industry and government insights into our overall progress and most importantly, support strategic intervention to help signatories deliver on the 2025 targets as a collective.”
The full 2025 Monitoring Programme can be found on APCO’s website.