Report says packaging needs clearer labels

The Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR) has published a report discussing the standard of environmental labelling on packaging in Australia. The report has identified something that the Australian Packaging Covenant (APCO) and its partners at Planet Ark and PREP Design hav recognised – that Australia needs a clear, concise and evidenced based label placed on every product and packaging type sold into the Australian market.

Report findings 
The report’s findings were developed using a random audit of products found on supermarket shelves. Its findings include:

  • 88 per cent of all packaging components are recyclable (this is consistent with APCO data)
  • 40 per cent of products contain some form of recycling labelling instruction
  • 23 epr cent of products on supermarket shelves contain the Australasian Recycling Label

The ARL Program is growing rapidly and tracking well compared to similar programs being implemented globally. As of May 2020, 402 APCO Members (27 per cent of the total APCO Membership) have joined the ARL Program, including many of Australia’s major household brands and retailers. In comparison, the United States’ How2Recycle Program (which began in 2012), reported 225 brand owner and retailer members across North America in 2019. Meanwhile the UK’s OPRL Program (which launched in 2009) reported 500 members in 2020.

This year the program was also recognised internationally as a world-leading consumer education initiative in a report from the UN Environment Programme, commended for its clarity, reliability and accessibility.

The ARL – a nationally consistent solution  
The ARL Program has been free and available for all APCO Members since 2018 and APCO is looking forward to seeing the ARL on every packaging format as the Program grows over the coming years.  Through the APCO Membership model, the Program is freely available to approximately 80% of the current supply chain, and as the Program develops and grows, we welcome anyone interested in the work to participate.

Labelling is one of the critical success factors to support the delivery of the 2025 National Packaging Targets. It is also one of APCO’s priority actions under the Federal Government’s 2019 National Waste Policy Action Plan (2.14 – Improve consumer information to increase recycling rates and improve the quality of materials in kerbside recycling collection through the Australasian Recycling Label).  

How APCO is building the Program  
The implementation of the ARL Program is a five-year journey and we will continue to invest significantly into building an evidence-based, trusted labelling Program. This includes:

  • Providing transparent administrative and governance functions for the Program through the Marketing Advisory Committee and Technical Advisory Committees
  • Building consumer awareness and interest in the label. The Program’s 2019 Benchmarking research found 48 per cent of consumers currently claim to recognise the label, while 60% per cent are either ‘extremely’ to ‘very’ interested in knowing more about the label
  • Building awareness of the Program with communications and education: In 2019 the ARL was featured in 470 media articles – including Sunrise, Sky News, ABC Breakfast, The Conversation and The Project. In 2020 APCO will be delivering its new National Consumer Education Campaign in partnership with Planet Ark to continue to build the Program’s profile.

More work needed on recycling labelling

An independent national audit of recycling information on consumer products and packaging has revealed a situation that is confusing for consumers and does not support better recycling, according to the Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR).

The audit –conducted by sustainability consultancy Equilibrium –across supermarkets, take-away outlets, and convenience stores in two capital cities -found 88 per cent of the packaging components sampled were recyclable through either kerbside recycling or a supermarket-based return program, but that only 40 per cent of these products had a recycling claim present on them.

Additional findings are:

  • 55 per cent of imported products and 64 per cent of Australian products sampled displayed a recyclability claim of any kind;
  • 23 per cent of products had the Australian Recycling Label (ARL) promoted by the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation;
  • 29 per cent of products had the “Mobius Loop” recycling symbol;
  • 29 per cent of plastic products had a resin code symbol which is often mistaken for a recyclability symbol;
  • The Tidyman logo appeared on 15 per cent of products sampled, including both recyclable and non-recyclable products; and
  • There was no consistent style, placement, or sizing of recyclable labels.

“The audit shows a dog’s breakfast of consumer information about what products and packaging components are or aren’t recyclable. It’s little wonder that the community regularly says that, while it strongly supports recycling, there’s confusion because of inconsistent, unclear and even misleading logos and claims on the products they buy,” Pete Shmigel, ACOR CEO, said. “The dog’s breakfast undoubtedly leads to some material going to the wrong place such as recyclables to garbage bins and non-recyclables torecycling bins. That means recycling rates that aren’t as high as they could be, contamination that is too high, and it’s harder to achieve national targets such as 70 per cent plastics recycling (from our current 12 per cent).

As the peak body for recycling,  Shmigel said ACOR fsupports the report’s recommendations, including:

  • Labels need to be specific about the management methods of allcomponents, and also include instructions to avoid contamination;
  • There needs to be a clear, concise and evidenced-based label placed on everyproduct and packaging type sold into the Australian market;
  • The preferred label should be made mandatory and be flexible enough to incorporate new technologies and systems as they come online to recycle more products;
  • The “Mobius Loop” could cause consumer confusion, and a short cut to achieving greater clarity and consistency is to remove these and plastic resin codes from packaging; and
  • There is a role for authorities such as the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in driving and ensuring clarity and consistency in environmental claims and labels pertaining to recycling.

“To make sure that every product that can be recycled is recycled, ACOR believes there needs to be a uniform labelling approach and that there should be a label placed on every product and packaging type sold into the Australian market. If we have such arrangements for nutrition, we can have them for consumer recycling. ACOR will make that case to the Commonwealth Minister for Environment,” Shmigel said. “Consumers can also be making the direct case to the manufacturers of the products they buy and actively ask company consumer hotlines: what is your approach to recycling labelling?“And, those companies who specify products and packaging must also step up to correctly label their products while the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission should ensure accuracy in environmental claims and labels. To that end, ACOR will formally refer the audit report to the ACCC for its consideration and follow up.”

“As the leading proponent for better environmental labelling in Australia, APCO welcomes robust discussion and feedback on the progress of labelling in Australia,” Brooke Donnelly, CEO, APCO said. “The report has identified something that APCO and our partners at Planet Ark and PREP Design have long recognised: that Australia needs a clear, concise and evidenced based label placed on every product and packaging type sold into the Australian market. It’s fantastic to see key sectors within the packaging supply chain recognising the importance of the labelling issue and we welcome their engagement and participation in the ARL Program moving forward. The ARL Program is the only evidence-based labelling system on the market and we look forward to seeing the ARL on every packaging format as the Program grows over the coming years.”

“After less than two years in market, we are excited to see the leadership and hard work of Australian industry being recognised, with the ARL featuring on approximately a quarter of all products on shelves. This is an incredible achievement within a short time frame.  The ARL Program is continuing to grow rapidly and tracking well compared to similar programs being implemented globally. There has never been a better time to be part of the Program. If you would like to find out more, please get in touch with the APCO team today.”

“After many years working to develop the Australasian Recycling Label, Planet Ark is impressed with the level of uptake after launching the program with APCO and PREP Design just 2 years ago,” said Paul Klymenko, CEO, Planet Ark. “The uptake has been significantly faster than comparable international labels, and the Australasian Recycling Label has been recognised by international bodies like the United Nations Environment Program as best practice when it comes to informing consumers how to best dispose of their packaging.”


APCO releases August sustainability webinar topics

The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation has released the August schedule for its successful Weekly Community Webinar series. The series has proved popular during lockdown conditions, with over 3,000 attendees participating so far as the sustainable packaging community bands together to stay connected during a challenging time.

Topics for discussion in August will include the hot topic of reusable packaging in the COVID-19 world, the role of packaging in minimising food waste, a look into the work being delivered to drive greater industry demand for recycled content and a preview of APCO’s new National Consumer Education Campaign.

Speakers for August’s webinars include Liz Kasell, Founder of RED Group, Jamie Forsyth, Founder and CEO, ReturnR, Jean Bailliard, General Manager, TerraCycle Australia and New Zealand, and Brent Vrdoljak, Senior Brand Manager, Natures Organics.

“I want to say thank you to the sustainable packaging community, particularly our guest speakers, for helping to make the series such a success. Shifting our events program online-only certainly wasn’t part of our plans for 2020, but the way our community has joined together to keep our crucial work on track in difficult circumstances has been extremely heartening and truly underscores the determination we all share to achieve the 2025 National Packaging Targets.” Brooke Donnelly, APCO CEO, said.

When: 5th August, 2020
Time: 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM
Reusable packaging in the COVID-19 world   

Join the APCO team for our weekly Community Webinars to explore the sustainability topics that matter most to our network.

This week we are looking at reusable packaging – one the most exciting areas of opportunity for packaging sustainability. In FY21, APCO will be delivering several projects to address reuse, including a Reuse Roadmap and collaborative pilot projects to implement reuse in targeted supply chains. Many APCO Members are also pioneering the way with scalable reusable packaging models in the business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) space.

Speakers joining us include Jamie Forsyth, Founder and CEO, ReturnR, Jean Bailliard, General Manager, TerraCycle Australia and New Zealand, and Brent Vrdoljak, Senior Brand Manager, Natures Organics.

Topics for discussion include:

  • What implication will COVID-19 hygiene precautions have for the reuse movement and how can we continue to deliver progress in this space?
  • Insights from leading reusable packaging brands, programs and community education organisations.
  • Challenges and opportunities for organisations looking to implement reuse models into their operations.
  • Opportunities to get involved in APCO’s FY21 Priority Projects addressing reuse.

When: 12th August, 2020
Time: 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM
Preview of APCO’s new National Consumer Education Campaign  

Join the APCO team for our weekly Community Webinars to explore the sustainability topics that matter most to our network.

This week we are introducing APCO’s new National Consumer Education Campaign. The new campaign will run from July 2020 – July 2022, with the objective of increasing the general public’s participation in sustainable and responsible behaviours in relation to packaging.

Join APCO’s communications manager Alice Johnson for an update on the campaign including:

  • An overview of the key educational themes being addressed in the campaign – including recycled content, reusable packaging and correct recycling behaviours.
  • An overview of the strategic approach to the campaign – including audiences, channels and activities.
  • The range of opportunities for all organisations to take part.

When: 19th August, 2020
Time: 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM
Driving demand for recycled content   

Join the APCO team for our weekly Community Webinars to explore the sustainability topics that matter most to our network.

This week we are covering the work being delivered to drive greater industry demand and uptake of recycled content. It’s a critical area of focus for APCO and our Members in FY21 – with projects underway to address recycled content traceability, labelling and procurement.

Join Meredith Epp, APCO’s Industry Partnership Manager and Liz Kasell, Founder of RED Group, for a look at two new projects that will be launching soon in this space.

Topics for discussion include:

  • Case studies from successful recycled content approaches being rolled out internationally.
  • An overview of APCO’s new Pledge Project.
  • An overview of RED Group’s new TRaCE circular economy program and how industry can support the 2025 recycling targets through direct involvement in circular outcomes.

When: 26th August, 2020
Time: 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM
The role of packaging in minimising food waste  

Join the APCO team for our weekly Community Webinars to explore the sustainability topics that matter most to our network.

This week we are looking at the journey of food from farm to fork – and the important role packaging plays in food waste prevention. Globally, one-third of all food produced for human consumption around the world goes to waste and here in Australia the government estimates food waste costs the Australian economy $20 billion each year. As Australian businesses and communities look to phase-out single-use plastic packaging, and redesign their packaging to improve recoverability, food waste avoidance is another critical issue packaging designers must consider.

Topics for discussion include:

  • An update on the research and projects being delivered within the Fight Food Waste CRC – an organisation that brings together industry, research and the community to capitalise on Australia’s food waste opportunities.
  • Training, tools and resources for businesses working to reduce food waste through packaging.

    Speakers TBC.

APCO releases July sustainability webinar topics

The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) has released the July schedule for its successful Weekly Community Webinar series. Launched at the start of the COVID-19 lockdown, the webinar series has been designed to keep the sustainable packaging community connected and engaged – and has so far attracted more than 2,200 participants.

Topics for discussion in July will include a data deep dive into packaging material flows in Australia, a designer’s guide to the circular economy and sustainable packaging, an introduction to Life Cycle Assessments methodologies, and a look at the rise of sustainable investment in Australia. APCO will also be hosting a session exploring how a behaviour science approach can help to deliver better environmental outcomes around plastic.

“These webinars are a weekly forum to reconnect, learn and debate the issues that our community cares most about. It’s fantastic to see that, even during such unusual circumstances, the APCO community is keen to continue growing their collective understanding of the circular economy and sustainable packaging best practice. We look forward to seeing even more of you in July,” said Brooke Donnelly, APCO CEO.

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of Plastic Free July, APCO has developed a resource toolkit to showcase positive action being taken on plastic packaging. The kit contains the latest plastic packaging statistics and 15 case studies showcasing organisations that are championing issues like single-use plastic avoidance and phase out, reusable packaging, community education and recycled content. Organisations highlighted include Responsible Cafes, Cove by Natures Organics, CHEP Australia, Loop, REDcycle, Plastic Police, Unilever, Colgate-Palmolive, THE ICONIC, Plastic Free Communities, Take 3 For the Sea and Operation Clean Sweep. A range of APCO-led initiatives are also highlighted, including the ANZPAC program, the Australasian Recycling Label Program and FY21 Priority Projects addressing plastic packaging.

“APCO is committed to developing a better approach to plastic packaging in Australia. We recognise that plastic packaging plays an important role in reducing food waste, managing hazardous goods and protecting life-saving medicine. However, plastic packaging is primarily made from finite resources and the way we manage it at end-of-life has poor environmental outcomes on land and in our oceans – which must be remedied.

“Plastic Free July is the perfect opportunity to focus on positive solutions to the plastic packaging challenge. We have developed our new Plastic Free July toolkit to recognise some of the good work and innovation already being delivered – and highlight a range of tangible ways that consumers, businesses and governments can drive practical action in their own community,” said Donnelly.

When: 8th July, 2020
Time: 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM
Topic:  A designer’s guide to the circular economy and sustainable packaging

This week we are exploring two important streams of packaging design – the creative and the technical – and asking how professionals in both fields can work together more closely to deliver better sustainability outcomes.

Topics for discussion include:

  • The role of creatives and designers in the circular economy.
  • The scope of packaging design processes and the ways different professionals can influence sustainability outcomes.
  • Insights into the challenges and opportunities creative and technical teams face during packaging design.
  • Powerful opportunities for sustainability when both teams work more closely together.
  • Best practice case studies for beautiful, functional and sustainable packaging design.

Pippa Corry, Founder and Director of Philo and Co
Ralph Moyle FAIP CPP, Education Coordinator, Australian Institute of Packaging

When: 15th July, 2020
Time: 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM
Heading: An introduction to Life Cycle Assessments for packaging

This week, to coincide with the launch of our new Member resource, Understanding Life Cycle Assessments for Packaging in Australia, we are exploring Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and how it works in partnership with other packaging sustainability tools, including PREP and the Sustainable Packaging Guidelines (SPGs).

LCA provides a practical and popular methodology for businesses to better understand the sustainability of their products and packaging. It offers reliable data on the whole of life impacts of products and packaging, and can empower business to make informed, evidence-based decision and claims.

When used alongside other packaging sustainability tools as part of a holistic approach to packaging sustainability, LCA can help to pinpoint the best approach to addressing the environmental trade-offs that may exist between packaging choices.

Topics for discussion include:

  • The process, benefits and challenges of using an LCA for your organisation.
  • How LCA can be used in conjunction with other APCO resources, including the Packaging Recycling Evaluation Portal (PREP) and the Sustainable Packaging Guidelines (SPGs).
  • Practical case studies and introduction to resources that will help get you started on the journey.

Speakers TBC.

When: 22nd July, 2020
Time: 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM
Heading: An introduction to sustainable investment

This week we are exploring the rapid rise of sustainable investing and asking what it means for Australian businesses.

Topics for discussion include:

  • How businesses are responding to growing consumer and investor demand for ethical and sustainable portfolio options
  • What will ESG investment look like in the Post COVID-19 recovery context
  • How sustainability can impact your company’s investment opportunities

Speakers TBC.

When: 29th July, 2020
Time: 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM
Heading: Plastic Free July special: building a better approach to plastic with behavioural science

As the 10th anniversary of Plastic Free July comes to a close, we are exploring how behaviour science insights could help us deliver better environmental outcomes around plastic.

Topics for discussion include:

  • An introduction to behavioural insights and its relationship with waste and recycling.
  • How an understanding of behavioural insights can shape approaches to sustainability policy, communications and education.
  • The critical behavioural barriers, challenges and opportunities we need to address around plastic.

Speakers TBC

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.


APCO launches new guidelines with regard to food packaging

The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) has today launched the Food Services Packaging Sustainability Guidelines, a new resource to help Australian food service businesses to achieve the best sustainability outcomes for their packaging. The guidelines were launched on Thursday at the Australian Waste and Recycling Expo at the Sydney International Convention Centre, during an industry panel discussion.

APCO developed the guidelines in close consultation with government, the food services industry, waste handlers, composters and recyclers, academics and community groups. Designed through the lens of the waste hierarchy and utilising a circular economic approach, the resource will provide organisations with a framework for reviewing and implementing more sustainable food service packaging options, incorporating considerations such as materials and recyclability, waste capture and handling and alternative delivery models. 

The report also includes case studies from Qantas, GPT Group and Hobart City Council, providing real-world implementation examples, evaluating barriers to implementation and offering practical guidance on overcoming challenges.

READ MORE: Federal government commits $3 million to support APCO recycling projects

“Food service businesses are facing unprecedented pressure and confusion, as they navigate not only the growing consumer backlash against problematic and single-use plastics, but also a rapidly changing marketplace that’s inundated with new materials and disruptive models,” said Brooke Donnelly, CEO of the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation.

“We are delighted to be launching this new resource which will support those businesses that are considering more sustainable packaging, but don’t know where to start.

The Guidelines were launched during the “Australia’s Best Practice Food Service Packaging Guidelines” panel discussion on the Food Waste Stage, a key focus on this year’s AWRE Expo. The session was chaired by APCO Sustainability Manager Jayne Paramor, who was joined by panelists Barry Cosier, Australian Food & Grocery Council, Richard Fine, Biopak, Tom Lunn, Detmold Group and Belinda Chellingworth from GPT Group.

“Sustainable packaging plays an important role in reducing food waste. We are pleased to be presenting a guide that will support a reduction in food waste going to landfill through more sustainable service ware choices,” Donnelly said.

Redesigning packaging with reduce, reuse, recycle in mind

As a consumer, you might have heard about the “Waste Hierarchy” and the 5Rs. From a consumer perspective they are:
• Refuse – do not purchase unwanted items.
• Reduce – eliminate single-use packaging wherever possible. This means declining plastic coffee cups, shopping bags, straws and buying products that are sustainable.
• Reuse products more than once. Purchase reusable water bottles, keep-a-cups, and recyclable shopping bags
• Recycle – ensure that you place your products in the recycling bins and purchase products that are recyclable. Look for products that are using the new Australasian Recycling Label (ARL) to better understand the true recyclability of the materials.
• Repurpose – purchase products that are made from recycled materials – consciously purchase bags, shoes, furniture, jewellery that you know is made from recycled content.

Mindsets have shifted over the last few years, and globally consumers are actively driving brands and their packaging departments to supplement sustainable packaging design to incorporate the 5Rs and to redesign with environmental impacts in mind.

Packaging technologists are being asked to reconsider the outcomes of their packaging design all the way across the supply chain from manufacturing to recycling, and also consider a closed-loop and more circular approach. Packaging design can no longer be linear.

When discussing the waste hierarchy from a packaging design perspective, reduce, reuse and recycle are the three most important areas for long-term changes as they are the preventative measures with the highest level of impact.

Achievable steps for packaging technologists can include redesigning the shape and size of a product, reducing thickness and weight of materials, shifting to recyclable materials, and developing a closed-loop system for products. However, any adaptations to the packaging design, structure and form must not compromise the ultimate purpose of packaging, which is maintain the ability to protect, preserve, contain, communicate and transport a product to the consumer. First and foremost, packaging must remain fit-for-purpose before any structural changes are made to a pack. The AIP encourages all packaging teams to undertake a lifecycle assessment where possible before any pack is altered. A redesign feature of packaging that consumers are embracing is reuse whereby a customer can refill their products using the same packaging. It is important to note that reusable containers have less impact on the environment than one that is single use. Packaging technologists need to re-imagine their packaging for continued use and the ability to have multiple uses for the consumer.

Consumers are also driving the focus to what is really happening with packaging and the end of life. Packaging technologists are now being asked to stop and review their packaging and find out whether it is actually being recycled or landfilled in the country it is sold in. The availability of the APCO PREP tool enables this decision making. In addition, if the material is capable of being recycled in the country in which it is sold, then consumer waste and greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced across the lifespan of the product.

This in turn achieves the 2025 National Packaging Targets that all brands are working towards.

If the material is unable to be recycled, then look at the possibility of moving to a recycled content, and even the use of renewable resource raw materials. Once again, the AIP urges consumers to undertake a full lifecycle assessment if possible, before moving to recycled content to determine if this is in fact the best decision for a product.

A recent example of the reuse, refill and recycle concept that has considered the product all the way through the supply chain is Cif ecorefill. Unilever announced on its global website the launch of Cif ecorefill, the new at-home technology that allows consumers to refill and reuse their Cif spray bottles for life. Cif has worked to create a no-mess solution, becoming the first household cleaning brand to do so with this pioneering twist and click refill design. Made with 75 per cent less plastic, Cif ecorefill attaches to the current Cif Power & Shine bottles. Through its technology, it seamlessly releases the super-concentrated product into the bottle, which is filled with water at home. The ecorefills are 100 per cent recyclable once the plastic sleeves are removed and, by the end of 2020, the ambition is for all Cif ecorefills and spray bottles to be made from 100 per cent recycled plastic. Going smaller is certainly better – the ecorefills are lightweight and save on storage space. Diluting the product at home means 97 per cent less water is being transported,
fewer trucks on the road and less greenhouse gas emissions.

Every day, more companies are announcing refillable packaging solutions including cosmetics and beauty, toiletries such as shampoo and soaps, cleaning products and beverages. The journey to sustainable packaging has only just begun and it is exciting to see what innovative designs packaging technologists are working on that address reduce, reuse, refill and recycle.

AIP/APCO course looks at National Packaging Targets

The Australian Institute of Packaging (AIP), in partnership with APCO has developed a new training course ‘Tools to help you meet the 2025 National Packaging Targets: PREP & ARL’ with the first two course dates set for July and August. The  course will also include a tour of a Materials Recycling Facility (MRF).

Objectives of course:

  • Is your business doing enough to ensure that 100 per cent of your packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025?
  • Have you audited your current packaging for recyclability?
  • Have you started using the Packaging Recyclability Evaluation Portal (PREP) during your design process?
  • Are you looking for a way to validate your on-pack recyclability labelling?
  • If a consumer picked up your product, would they easily understand which bin to put it in?
  • Are you shifting your packaging design to incorporate the Australasian Recycling Label (ARL)?

If you answered no to any of these questions, then this training course is for you.

This training course will help attendees to better understand what tools are available, how to use them, why they are needed and how they link to the 2025 National Packaging Targets.

The APCO Packaging Recycling Label Program is a nation-wide labelling program that provides designers and brand owners with the tools to inform responsible packaging design and helps consumers to understand how to correctly dispose of packaging. Led by the Australian Packaging Covenant (APCO), in collaboration with Planet Ark and PREP Design, the program aims to increase recycling rates, educate consumers and contribute to cleaner recycling streams. The two elements of the program are the Packaging Recyclability Evaluation Portal (PREP) and the Australasian Recycling Label (ARL).

Tool 1: PREP
PREP provides a way for brand owners, manufacturers and designers to assess whether an item of packaging could be classified as ‘recyclable’ through kerbside collection in Australian and New Zealand. PREP produces a report for each ‘project’ that is evaluated. A project will list the recyclability classification for each ‘separable component’ plus the user may nominate a scenario where the separable components are joined at the time of disposal (e.g. bottle and cap). Combining technical recyclability and collection coverage, PREP provides the evidence base for applying the Australasian Recycling Label on-pack.

Tool 2: ARL
The ARL is an evidence-based, standardised labelling system that provides clear and consistent on-pack recycling information to inform consumers of the correct disposal method. The ARL is designed to be used in conjunction with PREP, which informs the user of the correct on-pack ARL artwork for each ‘separable component’ of packaging. It is a simple and effective method to improve consumer recycling behaviours.

This course will help attendees understand how to more accurately use PREP and the ARL including:

  • How to complete a PREP evaluation
  • How to convert PREP outcomes to an ARL artwork
  • How to apply the ARL on-pack correctly

Attendees will start the training course by visiting a Materials Recycling Facility to obtain a realistic view of the current recycling capabilities in Australia. Moving then into the classroom, you will learn about the APCO Recycling Label Program and consumer recycling behaviours. Attendees will then deep-dive in to the purpose of PREP, gain an understanding of the governance and data collection process behind PREP, review samples and material templates and work through sample assessment templates. Attendees will be able to undertake a hands-on interactive session using PREP to complete an evaluation, review a report and understand the reasons behind the assessment.

Course objectives:
This half-day training course will enable participants to gain a better understanding of how using PREP and applying the ARL can help your business to meet the 2025 National Packaging Targets. The course will also enable participants to have a better and more realistic view of what packaging is truly recyclable and being recycled in Australia. Understanding these tools will enable agencies and marketers to provide verifiable and consistent recyclability information to their consumers.

Incorporating circular economy not as easy as it seems

APCO is what is called a co-regulatory body, whose role it is to administer the Australian Packaging Covenant.

“The Australian Packaging Covenant is a regulatory framework that sits under the National Environmental Protection Measure for used packaging. It is very firmly a co-regulatory body,” said Donnelly at a speech she gave at AUSPACK 2019 in Melbourne. “If you think about product stewardship, there are a couple of ways in which you can do that. You can do it in a voluntary sense, which is the industry getting together and deciding to do something. You can do it in a co-regulatory sense, which is industry and government getting together to do something, or you can do it in a mandatory sense, which is the government telling the industry what to do. We’re in what I like to think is the nice place in the middle, where we’re working together and we’ve got a framework to work to.”

The covenant has been going for 20 years, and every five years a new strategic plan is put in place that is agreed between industry and government together. In 2016, both industry and government got together to begin looking at a new approach. The covenant had been around for quite some time and it was struggling to find a way to deliver effectively to industry and government on the packaging changes that needed to happen. Government and industry looked at what model could be applied – looking particularly at the circular economy.

“We had a mandate in the 2017 strategic plan to deliver the sustainable packaging pathways in Australia through a circular economy model, which is no small feat,” said Donnelly. “It’s wonderful to talk about circular economy conceptually, but it is quite difficult to deliver in an operational sense, because it does require a complete transformation of the entire packaging ecosystem. That requires a level of collaboration and is driven through a collective impact model, which is all about shared value. If one of us doesn’t get there, none of us get there – that means you’ve got to take everybody on that journey with you. When you have 1,500 organisations and eight different governments (including states, territories and federal), that’s quite the challenge. So a co-regulatory body has a big task in terms of bringing stakeholders along the journey and getting everybody to where they need to be to be effective in this space.”

They focussed on four key areas. One is helping with the Sustainable Packaging Guidelines (SPG), which APCO has reviewed, with the end result being a new version of the SPG due out at the end of 2019. They are also at the forefront of providing a prep tool, which is a packaging recyclability portal, that is available to all APCO members, giving them the ability to actually know that they are designing packaging that has the ability to be recycled.
The second area APCO focussed on helping businesses identify and develop operational systems required for this work. Some of the key resources in this area are about strategic partnerships – bringing together organisations that otherwise would have no alignment with each other, other than that they have a similar end of life material.

“For example, we have 1,500 organisations that represent 153 different ANSZIC codes,” she said. “And if you can end up with an airline, a homewares company, a retailer and a pharmaceutical who, in any other sense, would probably not be having conversations – but who all have a similar material that they may need to deal with at end of life – that gives you the ability, in terms of looking at programs and options going forward, of scaling up material volumes and models that previously may not have been economically or operationally viable. That is because the limited scope of the material available can actually be scaled up on that collective impact model.”

The third area is education. The Australasian Recycling Label is the flagship piece of work for APCO in terms of helping industry and governments to communicate with consumers/communities about packaging and how to deal with packaging at end of life.
Finally, the fourth area is about material circularity. There’s no point recycling a piece of packaging unless it has a home to go to that has a value, said Donnelly. Material circularity is about dealing with the end market and creating a sustainable ecosystem for post-consumer recyclables.

Donnelly also touched on China’s national sword policy that reduced the amount of impurities it would allow in recycled materials coming from countries like Australia. And this, said Donnelly, is where Australian food, beverage and other industries that rely on packaging need a change in mindset.

China’s new policy saw the value of recycled materials drop through the floor. What this did was highlight the economic impact of the decision within Australia and whether it was palatable to have that level of risk on the global market for a commodity item such as waste.

“After much conversation among industry and government, it became obvious that that level of risk was not palatable,” said Donnelly. “So what’s our alternative? Our alternative is that we must create a domestic market and domestic opportunities for those materials to be used. Here there is a big transformation that’s required. APCO did a report that is available on our website, and that was completed around the time the China national sword policy was announced. That was one of the key things that really drove the need to do something different to what we’ve been doing traditionally. That coupled with the sustainable development goals and consumers’ greater awareness coming from things like ‘The War on Waste’, really drove a need to take a very different approach.”

In April 2018, APCO met with the state and federal environment ministers to discuss how APCO could support the response to these issues. Initially, the organisation went through a series of ways it could do that and it also tried to look how it could reach a target that could enable it to have something for companies to work towards.

“It was at that point that the 100 per cent target with regard to packaging being reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025 was endorsed by every government in Australia, including federal,” said Donnelly. “We then went away and, in coordination with industry and government, we sat down and spent about six months working through what other targets and what other areas needed to be addressed to support such an audacious target. There were a range of targets that were discussed, but the consensus and the agreement in the end was around three other sub-targets that support that 100 per cent target. We talked about 70 per cent of plastic packaging being recycled or composted.”

Another target was 30 per cent average recycled content across all packaging.

“This is very much about driving the pull,” she said. “We need a pull in the market to give a home to these materials, and there’s no home if the home doesn’t have a value. Looking at recycled content is about understanding how we can get recycled content into certain material. And this is not a ‘purist version’ of bottle to bottle, this is about finding a home for materials that can be recycled across a range of activities. This conversation is very open about what the solution can be.

“You’ll note that the target is an average recycled content, and that is because recycled content can’t go into all packaging. There are some things that it can’t go into and that is really challenging – things like pharmaceuticals, some food products – and if you’re looking at a 30 per cent recycled content target, really the focus area is about looking, initially, at your tertiary packaging and your secondary packaging. And primary packaging is something that we can look at, but not where we would be suggesting to start from a strategic viewpoint.”

The final target APCO mentioned was phasing out problematic and unnecessary single-use plastic packaging through re-design, innovation or alternative delivery methods.

“This is a big, contentious area,” said Donnelly. “This is the whole space where people are talking about plastic-free and all these kinds of things. What’s bubbling up from this is a need to recognise that there are some packaging materials where we just shouldn’t use single-use plastics. But here’s the thing – if you’re not going to do that, you need to have a plan on what your alternative is. There’s no point in banning straws or balloons, and that’s what we’ve seen recently. Some councils have come out and banned things like straws and then they’ve had an issue with the disability sector, where some people need straws to consume food. We need to be working through alternative models and planned pathway for transitioning away from these materials.

“It’s not that you shouldn’t transition away from things. There are going to be some materials that are just simply too hard to recover, or not recoverable, which we can use alternative materials for, but we need to do the work and planning for what those things will be, and for that transition pathway.

“You’ll see some news pieces around people and certain industry sectors pushing back and saying we should mandate recycled content. Well, we’ve got to agree on what recycled content is first. In this space right now, we are in a very big transition and it’s a transition that needs to be done in a considered way. It is about making sure that we have the best possible outputs and outcomes in a considered way so that we don’t drive perverse outcomes.”

Australian government and corporations aim to have 100 per cent sustainable packaging by 2025

Australia’s ambitious 2025 national packaging targets have the Australian government and leaders in sectors including food and packaging working together to create a more environmentally friendly country.

On the 25th of September, the minister for the environment, Melissa Price, joined leaders from packaging, retail, logistics, manufacturing, recycling and waste management businesses in a pledge to better manage packaging waste.

Australia’s 2025 national packaging targets were announced at an event in Melbourne, convened by the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO).

The 2025 targets are for 100 per cent of Australia’s packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.

READ: Detmold Group recognised for sustainable packaging excellence at APCO awards

Seventy per cent of Australia’s plastic packaging should be recycled or composted and a 30 per cent average recycled content should be included across all packaging by 2025.

The goal is also to have all problematic and unnecessary single-use plastic packaging phased out through changes in design, innovation or alternative methods.

These targets build on commitments made by commonwealth, state and territory environment ministers and the president of the Australian local government association, in April 2018, to set a sustainable path for Australia’s recyclable waste.

Price congratulated APCO, Woolworths and the initial working group of key business leaders including Coca-Cola Amatil, Goodman Fielder, Nestlé, Pact Group, Simplot and Unilever in tackling Australia’s waste challenges and supporting these targets.

To support the 2025 targets, members of the initial working group have also been joined by industry representatives and environmental groups including Aldi, Amcor, Australia Post, Tetra Pak and Goodman Fielder.

Woolworths quality and sustainability general manager, Alex Holt, said Woolworths was pleased to see such a wide range of industry players come together in support of such a worthy goal.

“Moving towards a circular economy won’t be easy, but we have the right mix of organisations on board to help make it a reality,” said Holt.

At the event, Minister Price officially launched the Australasian recycling label as an important tool for achieving the 2025 targets.

The new labelling system was developed by Planet Ark, PREP Design and APCO to help consumers better understand how to recycle packaging.

With more than 200 recycling labels currently being used in Australian packaging, the new evidence-based system is designed to combat confusion about recycling and reduce the levels of contamination in the waste stream.

Price said the recycling label provides people with easy to understand recycling information when they need it most, in those few seconds when they are deciding what bin the package goes in.

“The label removes confusion and reduces waste,” she said.

To date more than 50 Australian businesses have committed to the program.

Nestlé’s Oceania head of corporate and external relations, Margaret Stuart, said people who buy Nestlé products are increasingly wanting to know how to manage packing waste.

APCO was charged by the Australian government to make all packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.

APCO is committed to reducing the environmental impact of packaging on Australian communities by moving towards a circular economy.


Australian Packaging awards bring industries together for common purpose

The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) awards bought companies of all industries together in Sydney on the 29th of August. 

From telecommunications, to food and beverage, to the machinery and hardware sector, all industries come together for one common purpose – to meet the target of making packaging 100 per cent reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. 

The day began with two workshops – one on a sustainable packaging guidelines review and one on consumer education and behaviour change. 

Companies had the chance to discuss how to achieve the 2025 goal, sharing ideas on what prices they had already implemented and what could be improved. 

READ: Australian Institute of Packaging to introduce sustainable packaging design course

At the workshopping event, APCO chief executive officer Brooke Donnelly said Australia was undergoing a sustainable packaging review as there hadn’t been one since 2011 and it needed to be updated. 

“What we are trying to achieve is better material choices and better design,” said Donnelly. 

Part of that achievement also included correct disposal of packaging and no packaging in landfill, she said. 

At the awards evening, Demold packaging won the top award – Sustainable Packaging Excellence.

Detmold Packaging manufacturers paper and board packaging products for the FMCG and industrial markets.

As part of the privately owned Detmold Group, founded in 1948, Detmold Packaging has access to a worldwide network comprising seven factories and more than 20 sales offices throughout Australia, Asia, South Africa, the Middle East, America and Europe.

The food and beverage industry made its mark at the awards night, with Campbell Arnott’s Australia taking out a top award for Outstanding Achievement in Packaging Design. 

The company also won the award for the Food and Beverage sector. 

Campbell Arnott’s director of packaging Liza Vernalls said the award demonstrated the company’s commitment to packaging sustainability.

“It has been a great achievement from our packaging team, with full support from our leadership and manufacturing teams, together with the strong partnerships with our suppliers giving us such great results in a short period of time,” said Vernalls.

Other finalist organisations in the food sector included Nestlé Australia, Smith’s Snackfood and Sakata Rice Snacks Australia, Mountain Bread, and Fonterra Brands.

Donnelly praised the Australian brands for their commitment to reducing the harmful impacts of packaging on the environment.

“All the winners and finalists of the 2018 APCO Awards have demonstrated that no matter where their business sits within the packaging supply chain, there is always opportunity for positive change,” said Donnelly.

These companies were fantastic examples of sustainable leadership in the food and beverage sector, she said.

“We look forward to continuing to work with them in close partnership, in order to share the innovation, learning and insights required to build a circular economy here in Australia.”

Campbell Arnott’s demonstrated a commitment to operating more sustainably and in 2017, facilitated mandatory sustainability training with its internal packaging team.

The company also converted more than 1,400 tonnes of tertiary packaging from bleached white board to higher recycled content domestic brown board. Through this, Campbell Arnott’s was able to close the loop on paper and corrugated board recycling.

Arnott’s is one of the largest food companies in the Asia Pacific region. Its ongoing growth has been supported by the Campbell Soup Company’s investment in the business.

More than 50,000 Australians have worked with Arnott’s during the past century. Today, Arnott’s employs about 2,400 Australians across the country. 

It also employs thousands of people across the Asia Pacific region, in countries such as New Zealand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Japan.

The other winners for outstanding achievements were CHEP Australia for Outstanding Achievement in Sustainable Packaging Operations, and Australian Postal Organisation for Outstanding Achievement in Industry Leadership. 

Other winners were: 

ACCO Brands Australia – Homewares Sector 

Amgen Australia – Pharmaceutical Sector 

Detmold Packaging – Packaging Manufacturer 

Redback Boots – Clothing, Footwear and Fashion 

Kyocera Document Solutions – Electronics Sector 

LyondellBasel Australia – Chemicals and Agriculture 

Qantas Airways – Airline Sector 

SingTel Optus – Telecommunications 

Telstra Corporation – Telecomunications 

Super Retail Group – Large Retailer Sector 

Tasman Sinkware – Machinery and Hardware 

Integria Healthcare – Personal Care 

CHEP Australia – Logistics Sector

APCO, Planet Ark labelling scheme to combat waste

The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO), alongside Planet Ark and PREP Design, have launched a nation-wide labelling scheme that will help consumers better understand how to recycle products effectively.

Leading organisations including Australia Post, Blackmores, Nestlé, Officeworks, Unilever and Woolworthshave already pledged their commitment to using the label and as such are actively working towards reducing the amount of waste going to landfill in Australia.

The Australasian Recycling Label (ARL) will reportedly help solve Australia’s critical waste issues by increasing recycling rates and clearly outlining for consumers what product packaging is made from so they can correctly recycle it after use.

The label will lead to greater transparency amongst industry and drive more sustainable supply chain models. Businesses that pledge their commitment to the ARL gain access to a unique analysis tool that will allow them to better understand the materials they use in their packaging and associated environmental impacts. This will allow them to more effectively address problematic materials throughout the supply chain.

“The Australasian Recycling Label has been the result of close collaboration and partnership – core values of APCO. By bringing together the priorities of government and industry, and through our partnership with Planet Ark and PREP, we’ve been able to deliver a scheme that has real value for all parties and for the broader community as well,” said Brooke Donnelly, CEO of APCO.

“We’re incredibly proud of this initiative and of our members who have already pledged their commitment.The broad representation across industries demonstrates the growing sense of sustainability awareness and commitment in the Australian business community. We look forward to working with more organisations to collectively achieve better recycling rates and reduce waste to landfill.”