New Federal national packaging laws push accountability, but how can the industry best prepare? Gary Smith, CEO of BioPak, give his views on where composting fits into the picture.
Change is coming. On the 10th of November 2023, the Federal Government announced ambitious new packaging laws and national targets for the transition to a circular economy by 2030. A step that will ultimately shape the packaging industry in Australia.
Following the Environment Ministers’ meeting in Adelaide, the industry has been alerted to what the future of sustainable packaging might look like.
The federal government will step up as the regulator of packaging standards, establish a national ‘traceability’ framework for recycled materials, ban the use of certain chemicals, and ultimately decide how packaging is designed.
As stated in the Environment Ministers’ Agreed Communique “This will make decisions at the checkout much easier for shoppers, who won’t have to spend precious time comparing the environmental credentials of different products.”
It’s a big step for the industry – businesses have no choice but to prepare and take responsibility for the packaging they produce.
Having been in the packaging industry for almost two decades, I see this as an exciting step toward the circular economy – an approach to sustainable consumption and production where products are shared, leased, reused, repaired or recycled for as long as possible.
The circular economy is incredibly important for Australia because our current single-use packaging consumption isn’t sustainable.
Looking at recent statistics, in Australia in 2020-2021, there were 6.74 million tonnes of packaging placed on the market. Of that, 86 per cent of the packaging had good recyclability, and yet a whopping 44 per cent of packaging was sent to landfill.
So while it’s clear single-use packaging isn’t going anyway any time soon, the way we approach it ought to change.
This is where the vital role of composting comes into play. Compostable packaging is an innovative and renewable resource working on the premise of a circular economy – instead of going to landfill, compostable packaging returns nutrients to the soil. It really is a key solution in hitting these targets.
We also need a greater focus on product stewardship – an approach where business owners step up and manage the environmental impacts of their products and materials throughout their production, use and disposal.
It’s not just creating something and forgetting about it – it’s considering the entire lifecycle.
According to the Communique, “Environment ministers agreed product stewardship schemes play a key role in holding producers accountable for managing their waste and driving circularity.”
“If voluntary product stewardship doesn’t work, government will regulate.”
It’s clear, there’s no more waiting around and the time for industry to prepare is now.
This can be done by creating packaging products that can be easily recycled, require fewer resources in manufacturing, and limit the amount of hazardous materials.
As we look towards a circular economy, other ways to prepare include:
1. Use renewable resources: Compostable packaging made from renewable, fibre-based materials, with no added PFAS is a circular solution that supports the new packaging laws. Compostable packaging also acts as a vehicle to curb food waste and return nutrients back to the soil.
2. Certifications are key: Certifications give businesses and consumers confidence and clear disposal directions. When sourcing paper or wood, look for FSC certifications that prove the material adheres to strict environmental and social standards. You can also confirm recyclability through the Certified Compostable Logo (Australasian Bioplastics Association) and the Australasian Recycling Label (ARL).
3. Don’t reinvent the wheel: Before looking to invest in your own product stewardship program, be sure to see what’s currently in the market. You might be able to join a scheme or initiative that already exists. There are some great initiatives out there creating widespread change, such as Compost Connect, a composting initiative supporting closed-loop solutions.
These announcements from Australia’s Environment Ministers present a promising future for packaging in Australia. A future where sustainable packaging, along with clear and accessible disposal methods, will lead the way. A vision we share at BioPak.