APCO launches action plan for problem plastics

The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) has published APCO Action Plan for Problematic and Unnecessary Single-Use Plastic Packaging. It is a practical new resource designed to help Australia’s packaging supply chain phase out problematic and unnecessary single-use plastic packaging through innovative, sustainable solutions.

Approximately 50,700 tonnes of single-use plastic packaging enter the market every year and include some of the most challenging to recycle and environmentally harmful packaging formats.

The plan sets out how Australia can eliminate the following nine priority materials:

  1. Lightweight plastic shopping bags
  2. Fragmentable plastics
  3. Expanded polystyrene (EPS) packaging for food and beverage service and retail fresh produce 
  4. EPS loose fill packaging 
  5. Moulded EPS packaging for white/brown goods and electronics
  6. Rigid polyvinyl chloride (PVC) packaging
  7. Rigid polystyrene (PS) packaging
  8. Opaque polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles
  9. Rigid plastic packaging with carbon black

Assistant minister for waste reduction and environmental management Trevor Evans said the plan on single use plastics is a practical resource to help drive change through Australia’s packaging supply chain to achieve the 2025 National Packaging Targets.

“The Morrison government has endorsed these ambitious targets for recycling packaging in Australia, including to phase-out problematic and unnecessary single-use plastic packaging by 2025,” Evans said.

“We want Australians to be confident that our recyclable materials are not dumped in landfill or left to pollute our oceans and waterways.”

The plan provides a practical framework to help businesses identify opportunities to eliminate, redesign, replace, or innovate to introduce new solutions. It also provides a range of resources to help the supply chain take action at each step of the process.

Also contained are a range of industry best practice case studies and programs currently in market, including initiatives by Officeworks, Woolworths, Coles, Aldi, McDonald’s, and many more.

Officeworks was commended in the report for successfully phasing out all polystyrene packaging from its home branded furniture and shredders and working with the wider supply chain to share the knowledge.

Officeworks has redesigned some packaging formats to get rid of polystyrene.

Officeworks managing director Sarah Hunter said the company wants to contribute to a more circular economy by designing out waste; preferencing renewable and recyclable materials; and keeping products in the economy for longer.

“We’ve made great progress in this area, but we know there is still more we can do. We have redesigned larger packaging formats to remove polystyrene in products such as furniture and shredders and we’re currently working with our technology suppliers to do the same. In the last financial year, we recycled 86 per cent of the waste from our stores and operations, reducing the amount sent to landfill by more than a quarter,” Hunter said.

“Our commitment to become a zero-waste business and ensure all packaging is reusable or recyclable wouldn’t be possible without the hard work of our team members across buying, sourcing, supply chain, sustainability departments and our stores who have all played an important role.”

Another innovative solution outlined in the report is Planet Protector Packaging, an Australian business that is providing a sustainable alternative to polystyrene using waste wool from the meat and textile industries otherwise destined for landfill.

Planet Protector Packaging CEO Joanne Howarth said it is up to all of us to make the change to phase problematic plastics from our everyday lives.

Planet Protector provides an award-winning alternative to polystyrene made with wool.

“We’re in a race to eliminate expanded polystyrene in food and pharmaceutical transport through our innovative Woolpack solutions,” Howarth said.

“What we do in the next 10 years will affect our oceans for the next 10,000. It is up to all of us to make the change to phase problematic plastics from our everyday lives.”

APCO CEO Brooke Donnelly said single-use plastics are an issue that is close to many people’s hearts given the devastating impact they have on marine environments and landfill.

“To reach our 2025 targets, we need all businesses to start phasing these materials out of their operations and this practical plan is here to help them do it,” Donnelly said.

“Importantly, it has been designed to align and amplify the groundswell of action already taking place on the single-use plastics issue by industry, government and the community.”

Under the 2025 National Packaging Targets, APCO is working with industry, government and the community to phase out problematic and unnecessary single-use plastics packaging by 2025. This work is endorsed by government in the National Waste Policy and National Waste Policy Action Plan.

APCO Action Plan for Problematic and Unnecessary Single-Use Plastic Packaging is available to download here.

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