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Our Packaging Future, the new strategic framework outlining how Australia will deliver the 2025 National Packaging Targets launched yesterday and has been hailed by industry as the first holistic and integrated perspective of Australia's packaging ecosystem.

Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environment Management, Trevor Evans.
Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environment Management, Trevor Evans.

Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environment Management, Trevor Evans, and the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) launched the framework during a webinar, with dicussion led by the minister, APCO CEO Brooke Donnelly, and sustainability expert Dr Helen Lewis.

The critical future steps for our industry are outlined in the framework, which combines data and insights from more than 200 authors and contributors to identify the challenges contributing to the gap between the amount of packaging material that comes to market and that which is recovered for use.

Of the 5.5 million tonnes of packaging material placed on the market annually, 88% is currently recyclable, yet just 49% is recovered for use in future applications, with the remainder ending up as landfill, or litter on land and in our oceans.

Minister Evans said: “Governments around Australia are relying on APCO and its members to bring about a more sustainable approach to packaging. This report shows that about half of all packaging in Australia is not currently being recovered, and that is the gap we need to bridge to achieve the National Packaging Targets by 2025.”

Our Packaging Future maps the strategies required to move away from our current take, make and waste approach to managing packaging. The strategies address issues of packaging design, improved collection and recycling systems and expanded markets for used packaging, and provides a systemic, whole of environment approach to building Australia’s sustainable packaging future.

Key recommendations and approaches addressed in the plan are listed at the end of this article. Two notable steps are the launch of a National Consumer Education Campaign this year and a change to the 2025 National Packaging Target that will see an increase in the recycled content levels in packaging from 30% to 50%.

Brooke Donnelly, CEO, APCO commented: “Our planet has finite resources to meet our ever-increasing consumption. Business as usual is simply not going to sustain our communities into the future. We will not accept a future defined by waste stockpiles, inefficient waste recovery economies, self-interest and fragmented regulation and policy approaches.

“The vision for this report is clear: building a packaging value chain that collaborates to keep packaging materials out of landfill and maximise the circular value of the materials, energy and labour within the local economy. Thank you to everyone who took part in the process, it has taken over two years, however, we now have a clear vision for a whole of system approach to delivering the 2025 Targets.”

INDUSTRY RESPONSE

The new report has been 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.

Justin Frank, chief customer officer, SUEZ Australia & New Zealand said: "By mapping the challenges faced by all impacted waste streams, the collective impact framework focuses industry and government on the strategies that will drive the critical growth and sustainable end markets that are necessary to drive the system forward and achieve the waste reduction and recycling outcomes the Australian public expects.”

Andrew Smith, EGM Sustainability, Pact Group, said the company applauded increasing the inclusion rate of recycled content in packaging, new re-use models for consumer and B2B packaging, and developing a traceability and verification program for recycled content in packaging.

“It is incumbent on us to build infrastructure and capability and we have committed to significant investment to enable this. Now is the time for brand owners to act boldly and demand recycled content to achieve these targets,” he said.

Jeff Maguire, group head of CDS Development & Implementation, Coca-Cola Amatil, said: “Coca-Cola Amatil is committed to building a circular economy for packaging here in Australia -- evidenced by the fact that 7 out of 10 of our bottles are now made from 100% recycled material. But there is still a lot more work to be done, and a lot more to our product range than just PET, cans and glass bottles. ‘Our Packaging Future’ provides the guidance and direction that industry needs to build this circular approach across all material types and to practically deliver the 2025 National Packaging Targets within their organisation. We are continuing to work closely with each of the states and territories on their Container Deposit Schemes, so it's really positive to see the report include the establishment of the CDS National Working Group to drive greater consistency and alignment for the programs.”

Margaret Stuart, head of Corporate and External Relations, Nestlé Oceania: “Nestlé was one of the first organisations to publicly support the 2025 Targets in 2018, and we have since gone on to deliver significant progress on this commitment -- both in our organisation and in collaboration with the wider supply chain. Soft plastics recyclability is a particular focus for us and in March we announced a partnership with IQ Renew of a trial of kerbside recycling which will see soft plastics collected from over 100,000 homes in Australia. Globally, we have sent a strong signal to the packaging industry that we want to buy food grade recycled plastic packaging by committing $2.5bn to purchase these materials. As well, our Institute of Packaging Sciences, the first of its kind in the food industry, is dedicated to discovering and developing functional, safe and environmentally friendly packaging solutions.

“Australia will require a whole of supply chain approach to packaging recyclability to make these targets a reality, and ‘Our Packaging Future’ provides this all important, holistic perspective and framework that's critical for driving circular solutions, both in the Australian market and across global supply chains.”

Chris Foley, head of Energy and Environment, Kmart Group said: “As the first integrated and holistic perspective of Australia's packaging ecosystem, ‘Our Packaging Future’ is a significant milestone for packaging sustainability here in Australia. At Kmart Group, we are committed to reducing the environmental impacts of Kmart, Target and Catch's own brand products and packaging, delivered through our Better Together sustainable development program. This new roadmap will allow Australian industry to really harmonise and focus our efforts and resources to have the most impact within Australia's packaging ecosystem. As a signatory to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation's New Plastics Economy Commitment and the United Nation's Fashion Industry Climate Action Charter, it also is great to see the principles and foundations underlying ‘Our Packaging Future’ are so strongly aligned and provide an Australian perspective and pathway for us to all work together to keep packaging materials out of landfill and maximise the circular value of the materials.”

Andrew Petersen, CEO, Business Council for Sustainable Development Australia, said: “Globally there is a diverse network of organisations, including the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, that are working to deliver science-based guidance for businesses to better manage their environmental impact. The ‘Our Packaging Future’ project is firmly part of this network, providing an evidence-based foundation for businesses to map, measure and forecast the reduction and, ultimately the elimination, of packaging leakage across their value chains. The recommendations and strategies outlined in the report will provide Australian businesses with a strong foundation to deliver effective action on eliminating pollution and building a circular approach across our economy.”

Paul Klymenko CEO, Planet Ark Environmental Foundation added:
“The transformation to a circular economy will require one of the greatest collaboration efforts ever undertaken by humanity. The work done to create ‘Our Packaging Future’, as well as the framework outlined in it, is an excellent example of the type of collaboration needed - specifically to deliver Australia's world leading 2025 National Packaging Targets.

“The report highlights the very real need for national consumer education, particularly the use of standardised on-pack recycling information via the Australasian Recycling Label, itself a highly productive collaboration between APCO, Planet Ark and PREP Design.”

CRITICAL STEPS

Key recommendations and approaches addressed in Our Packaging Future plan include:

• A change to the 2025 National Packaging Target for recycled content levels in packaging. The Target for the average recycled content in all packaging will increase from 30% to 50%.
• The launch of a National Consumer Education Campaign for sustainable packaging in 2020
• APCO to convene a CDS National Working Group as a collaborative forum aiming to facilitate consistency and alignment of future closed-loop schemes
• APCO to explore and facilitate waste collection partnerships in regional and remote areas including potential collaboration with other product stewardship schemes where kerbside collection is not feasible
• Voluntary code of practice for shopping bags with key stakeholders
• New reuse models for both consumer and B2B packaging
• For compostable packaging, develop a national strategy with industry and government partners.
• Explore extending the Australasian Recycling Label to include B2B packaging and recycled content.
• Develop a traceability and verification program for recycled content in packaging and products

To download the full report, head here

Food & Drink Business

Unilever has released its Future Foods initiative, outlining commitments to a healthier and more sustainable global food system. At its centre is a $1.63bn sales target for plant-based meat and dairy alternatives within the next five to seven years.

Coles and waste and recycling services company Cleanaway have launched an organics recovery facility in Brisbane to convert food waste into nutrient-rich compost, the first of its kind in Queensland.

Most of the world’s food is travelling thousands of kilometres through a complex distribution network often hidden from plain sight that’s leaving suppliers in the dark and consumers with inconsistent quality.