The Australian Packaging Covenant (APC) is moving to address issues surrounding soft plastics head on.
At present, soft plastics are mostly unsuitable for kerbside recycling and end up contaminating other recoverable streams, according to the APC.
While there have been moves to recycle these plastics into feedstock pellets for remanufacturing, most Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs) in Australia can't yet segregate them efficiently with existing infrastructure.
The APC is looking at improving end markets and ensuring adequate infrastructure and reverse logistics (including subsidies for remote locations) are key factors in the commercial competitiveness of recovered materials.
"Many consumers don't understand the meaning of some labels, such as the Plastics Identification Code (PIC), and confuse claims about recyclability and recycled content," the APC said in its newly released White Paper on soft plastics.
In response, it is leading a standardised, industry-wide consumer labelling scheme to facilitate access to reliable information on the recyclability of packaging.
Think Tank talks
At the APC's Think Tank in February, participants emphasised the ongoing issue of industry misattributing recovered soft plastics as poor quality and of insufficient quantity when compared to virgin polymer feedstocks.
Discussions revolved around the importance of supply chain agreements and reverse logistics as mechanisms that are required to stimulate the adoption of recovered materials for reproduction of packaging.
Soft plastics represent significant benefits over traditional packaging materials such as aluminium or glass in terms of light-weighting.
Increasing the value of soft plastics to encourage recovery and recycling can be achieved through design innovations including ‘recycle-ready’ manufacture and avoiding metalised content, multi-material or duplex structures.
In the future, the APC plans to:
- Foster and develop end markets of recovered soft plastics to increase the value of recovered soft plastics.
- Implement evidence-based disposal labelling.
- Develop an industry-agreed definition of soft plastics.
- Support APC members with information pertaining to sustainable material options and value proposition for customers and consumers.
- Validate and disrupt current understanding around renewable and recycled materials used in packaging.
- Investigate and deploy the practical measures that segregate soft plastics for efficient recovery and recycling
- Standardise (wherever possible) the recovery options across MRFs within Australia to enable kerbside disposal of soft plastics.
A White Paper about sustainable design can also be accessed here.