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The value of Australia's scrap paper and plastics exports has dropped dramatically due to global oversupply, according to a new report by the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO).

In the report, which outlines the impact of China’s National Sword policy, it is clear that while the volume of Australian exports of scrap paper and plastics has remained stable over the past 12 months, their value is down significantly.

Mixed paper scrap, which was once valued at $124 per tonne (EXW), has dropped by close to 100 per cent, and is now close to worthless, according to the Market Impact Assessment Report.

Scrap mixed plastic has fallen 76 per cent, from $325 per tonne to $75 per tonne, and cardboard is now valued at $125 per tonne, falling 40 per cent from $210 per tonne.

APCO CEO Brooke Donnelly said China’s decision to revise the contamination threshold for scrap paper and plastics is what "lies at the heart of this issue".

"We need to develop the right domestic infrastructure to lower the contamination levels in our waste and start building viable end market solutions here in Australia to ensure a smaller, cleaner packaging waste stream,” Donnelly said.

The Australian Recycling Label (ARL) communicates recycling clearly on-pack.
The Australian Recycling Label (ARL) communicates recycling clearly on-pack.

"The APCO is already developing a range of solutions to improve sustainable packaging design, reduce contamination, and improve recycling rates."

Most recently, the APCO launched the first nation-wide labelling program to help Australians better understand how to recycle packaging correctly and assist organisations in designing for recycling and working towards lowering contamination levels.

Launched in conjunction with Planet Ark and PREP Design, the program has already been adopted by Australia Post, Blackmores, Nestlé, Officeworks, Unilever and Woolworths, among others.

APCO has accelerated the delivery of the PREP design tool, an online evaluation portal that determines if a packaging format is recyclable or not in the current kerbside collection service.

For the first time in Australia, organisations can develop their packaging to be recyclable where possible, driving waste avoidance outcomes at the design stage.

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