New guidance to address confusion over compostable plastic packaging

The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO), the Australasian Bioplastics Association (ABA) and the Australian Organics Recycling Association (AORA)) unite behind common approach to compostable plastic packaging. 

APCO, in partnership with ABA and AORA, have today published Considerations for Compostable Packaging, a new guideline to help businesses make informed choices when considering the use of compostable packaging.

Designed to cut through confusion, the practical new resource will help industry professionals – particularly brand owners, packaging technologists and designers, and food service providers – decide when and where to use certified compostable plastic packaging, and associated items like cutlery.

Based on the systems and infrastructure currently available, the guideline identifies the key potential applications and opportunities for certified compostable plastic packaging, with a strong emphasis on packaging that could also facilitate the collection of food waste. These include food caddy liners, fruit and vegetable stickers and ‘closed-loop’ situations, such as festivals.

Recommendations are also provided about how to correctly communicate with end consumers, including accurate certification and correct language for labelling and marketing. Statements to avoid are also highlighted, including the misleading terminology and greenwashing claims that are currently contributing to unintentional litter and contamination of the mechanical recycling system.

“With brands facing intense consumer pressure to move away from plastics, coupled with thousands of Australian food outlets turning to takeaway packaging formats for the first time, there’s never been a more important time for businesses to receive accurate and consistent information about compostable packaging,” said Brooke Donnelly, CEO, APCO. “Compostable plastics currently account for around 0.1 per cent of plastic packaging on market in Australia. Yet we know that it is a market that is growing and one that causes real confusion – for both industry and end consumers. We are delighted to launch this new guideline today with the two leading industry associations, to provide a clear and consistent approach to the packaging format going forward.”

 Rowan Williams, president, Australasian Bioplastics Association, noted that this has been an excellent opportunity for peak industry bodies to collaborate on guidelines for industry and consumers.

“The collaborative nature of the work in getting this guideline out has been outstanding,” he said. “The guidelines look up and down the value chain, at where the raw material comes from and also where the finished packaging will go to, such as organics recycling, in the future. The ABA, as custodian of the only verification scheme for claims of certified compostability to the Australian Standards, welcomes the advent of the guidelines and looks forward to continuing collaboration with APCO, AORA and industry stakeholders.”

 “AORA supports the use of AS4736 certified materials for the source separation of food waste in the home or in commercial settings. It is a suitable alternative to non-recyclable packaging. Compostable coffee cups, capsules and compostable bags can all be successfully utilised through normal organic recycling processes, without concern of contamination,” said Peter Wadewitz, chair, AORA.


ANZPAC Plastics Pact to tackle plastic waste in Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Islands

The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) has today announced at the Federal Government’s National Plastics Summit in Canberra that APCO will lead the development of the ANZPAC Plastic Pact, the latest to join the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s global Plastics Post Network.

The ANZPAC Plastics Pact, which will formally launch to the public in late 2020, will work with businesses, governments and NGOs from across the plastics value chain in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Island nations to develop a common vision of the circular economy for plastics.

With just 16% of plastic packaging currently being recycled in Australia, ANZPAC will provide the significant intervention required to meet Australia’s national plastic packaging target that 70% of all plastic packaging will be recycled or composted by 2025.

Aligned with the other initiatives of the Plastics Pact network, the ANZPAC Plastics Pact will work towards a set of ambitious, time-bound targets in the following areas:

  • Eliminate unnecessary and problematic single-use plastic packaging through redesign and innovation
  • Ensure all plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable, or compostable
  • Increase the reuse, collection, and recycling of plastic packaging
  • Increase recycled content in plastic packaging.

The exact targets will be released towards the end of 2020, and progress will be reported annually.

At the Plastics Summit, APCO was joined by representatives from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the UK’s Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP), and the Australian Food and Grocery Council, to officially invite industry and government to participate in the program.

In 2020 APCO will be developing the program in close consultation with local industry representatives in all regions. Initiatives will include a series of plastics-focused projects, and the creation of the Circular Plastics Research Initiative, a new innovation hub that will bring together researchers, investors and industry to share knowledge and align efforts.

Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environmental Management, Trevor Evans welcomed APCO’s commitment to reviewing existing plastic packaging targets, in light of the national waste targets agreed by the nation’s environment Ministers: “The Government welcomes industry led approaches which are fundamental to bringing about better recycling outcomes, and looks forward to actions that will significantly increase recycled plastic content beyond current levels.”

Brooke Donnelly, CEO of APCO said: “It was fantastic to meet today with key stakeholders from government and industry at the Plastics Summit to explore what tangible solutions are needed to address the plastics crisis. We commend the government for leading this approach and providing the ideal platform for us to unveil the new, industry-led ANZPAC initiative.

“Plastic is a global supply chain problem and that means to manage it effectively, Australia needs an international approach. The Ellen Macarthur Foundation’s Plastic Pact network is a proven, effective model being rolled out across the world, and I’m very pleased that APCO Members and key stakeholders will be leading the delivery of this program for our region.

“We are wasting no time and will be kicking off the industry action at a workshop in Sydney tomorrow to start developing targets and priority projects.”

Industry from across the value chain has already shown strong engagement with the program, with companies including Woolworths, Australia Post, Unilever, Mars, Nestlé Oceania, Pact, CHEP, Amcor, Kmart Australia, Officeworks, Detmold Group, Veolia, SUEZ, Fonterra and Mondelēz International confirming their support for a common approach such as the ANZPAC program. The Australian Food and Grocery Council and Planet Ark Environmental Foundation are also strongly supporting the new program’s development.

“The Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) is collaborating to develop whole-of supply chain solutions so our sector can meet the National Packaging Targets to benefit the community and the environment,” said DGeoffrey Annison, AFGC Acting CEO commented:

“We are proud to be supporting the development of the new ANZPAC program, alongside the ongoing work of APCO and the vital role the organisation is playing in developing a circular economy for packaging and increasing recycling rates across our region.”

“Addressing the challenges relating to plastic packaging requires collaboration across all sectors, and the approach outlined by APCO provides the mechanism to facilitate the systems level change that is needed. We look forward to seeing what can be achieved as this progresses,” said head of sustainable development at Officeworks, Ryan Swenson.

“We welcome the announcement of the ANZPAC Plastics Pact and look forward to working together with the governments and industry of Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands to drive real change towards a circular economy for plastic, by eliminating problematic and unnecessary plastic items, innovating to ensure that the plastics they do need are reusable, recyclable, or compostable, and circulating the plastic items they use to keep them in the economy and out of the environment. Together we can create a world without plastic waste or pollution,” said new plastics economy lead, Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Sander Defruyt.

“WRAP is delighted to see APCO announce plans for an ANZPAC. The UK Plastics Pact has been very successful in transforming the plastics landscape in the UK. WRAP, who developed the UK Plastics Pact in collaboration with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, have been involved in supporting a number of Plastics Pacts around the world as part of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s global Plastics Pact network. This has the power to completely transform how we produce, use and dispose of plastics,” said David Rogers, head of international resource management, WRAP UK.