APCO report maps the state of packaging in Australia

The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) has today published ‘Australian packaging consumption and recycling data 2018–19’ a new report tracking Australia’s progress towards the 2025 National Packaging Targets (2025 Targets).

The second in a series of annual publications mapping the state of packaging in Australia, the report’s findings demonstrate that overall trends are positive, and Australia is making progress towards the 2025 Targets year-on-year. However, significant action from stakeholders across the supply chain is still required in order for Australia to meet the 2025 Targets.

The 2018–19 benchmarking results include:

  • Target 1: 100 per cent reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging.
    • Result: Proportion of recyclable packaging increased from 88 per cent to 89per cent
  • Target 2: 70 per cent of plastic packaging being recycled or composted.
    • Result: The plastics recycling rate increased from 16  per cent to 18 per cent (Figures are higher for individual polymers e.g., 36 per cent of PET and 23 per cent of HDPE were recycled).
  • Target 3: 50 per cent of average recycled content included in packaging (revised up from 30% in 2020).
    • Result: average recycled content increased from 35 per cent to 38 per cent
  • Target 4: The phase out of problematic and unnecessary single-use plastics packaging.
    • Result: apparent reductions in some of the priority materials – PS, EPS, PVC.

The report shows improvements to packaging sustainability in a range of areas including a reduction in the volume of plastic (-6 per cent) and an increase in the volume of recyclable packaging on market.

The biggest area of challenge continues to be the recycling rate of plastics. While the recovery rate increased from 16 per cent to 18 per cent, significant progress is still required to meet the 2025 Target of 70 per cent. These findings clearly support the need for stronger interventions into the way Australia manages plastic packaging.

This year’s report also contains new data exploring the volume of packaging in landfill and reusable packaging formats. 2.9 million tonnes of packaging were disposed to landfill in 2018-19, accounting for 50 per cent of the total amount of packaging placed on market. The impacts of landfilling instead of recycling these materials include lost economic value of around $520 million (the value of this packaging if it had been sorted and diverted to recycling instead of landfill) and an additional 2 million tonnes of CO2 emissions.

The 2020 report also quantified reusable packaging for the first time. The pilot project examined material flows associated with five common reusable packaging systems, which were found to avoid the use of an estimated 1.7 million tonnes of single-use packaging. This demonstrates the enormous potential of reusable packaging systems to reduce consumption of single-use packaging, which will be a major area of focus for APCO and its Members over the next five years.

Brooke Donnelly, APCO, chief executive officer, commented: “I cannot overstate the importance of taking collective action to work together in response to the issues identified in this report.

“There are plenty of positives to take away from this year’s findings and it’s particularly heartening to see that almost 9 out 10 items of packaging on shelves can now be recycled. However, what the data reiterates for us yet again is that plastic recycling is the critical issue that needs to be addressed.

“We currently have more than 1500 organisations, representing the complete supply chain, actively working to deliver the 2025 Targets. It’s time for all stakeholders to actively be part of the community driving the change towards a more sustainable approach to packaging in Australia – to find out more get in touch with APCO today.”

Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environmental Management, Trevor Evans MP, said: “I welcome this new report from APCO and the data that shows we’re working towards the 2025 National Packaging Targets. Getting to 100% reusable, recyclable and compostable packaging across the country will set us on the path to creating a vibrant circular economy in Australia.

“While it’s great to see many improvements in the sustainability of our packaging, significant action from stakeholders across the supply chain is still required in order for Australia to meet the 2025 Targets.

“The recent passage of the landmark Recycling and Waste Reduction Bill 2020 through the Parliament underlines the government’s commitment to taking responsibility for our waste.”

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