Recyclable packaging film for fresh and processed food

Flexible food packaging has traditionally presented brand owners with a choice – either extract the maximum performance parameters or make it fully recyclable. Achieving both goals at once has been almost impossible.

Mondi has created a recyclable polypropylene film that is suitbale for the thermoforming of flexible films for modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) and vacuum packaging, which is known for its ability to extend the shelf life of products such as meat and cheese.

The new, coextruded material includes a top and bottom web, with an internal barrier layer that comprises less than 5 per cent of the entire structure, meaning it qualifies as a mono-material construction and is fully recyclable in existing waste streams. The Aachen, German-based Institut cyclos-HTP – the Institute for Recyclability and Product Responsibility – has independently certified that both the top and bottom webs of this construction have the highest qualification “Class AAA” in recyclability.

The previous multi-material construction rendered the previous packages unrecyclable and also resulted in a much higher carbon footprint as confirmed by life cycle analyses.

“We’re delighted to report that this innovative new film reduces the package’s carbon footprint by 23 percent compared to existing conventional structures,” said Günter Leitner, Managing Director of Mondi Styria, the Austrian plant that produces this film.

“Mondi’s view is that packaging should always be fit-for-purpose – paper where possible, plastic when useful – and sustainable by design,” said Thomas Kahl, project manager EcoSolutions for Mondi Consumer Packaging . “The challenge with this project was to maintain the functionality that is key to such applications, including excellent oxygen and moisture barriers, and high puncture resistance –– while also enhancing the package’s recyclability. The latter factor was vital as Mondi continues to support the principles of a circular economy.”

Features of the product include:

  • thermoform a fully recyclable PP film that retains all the functionality of the previous, multi-material construction
  • achieve great sealability in the resulting package due to both the top and bottom web being the same, compatible material
  • benefit from excellent optical properties and an outstanding gas barrier that provides for longer shelf life of the packed foodstuffs.

Users also benefit by tapping into Mondi’s years of experience in food packaging, with Mondi’s plant in Styria offering extensive expertise high-barrier applications for food packaging.

This latest development is fully in line with the design guidelines of major brand owners and retailers who have sustainability in mind. This thermoformable food packaging corresponds to their requirements for redesigning flexible packaging to become more sustainable, while also meeting the challenges laid out in the ‘New Plastic Economy’ global initiative, which is striving toward a more circular and sustainable economy.

Federal Government commits $3 million to support APCO recycling projects

The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) and Planet Ark Environmental Foundation (PAEF) are pleased to confirm the Federal Government has today committed $3m to support four new recycling education and resource recovery projects in Australia. The funding is part of the Federal Government’s $203m package announced today in Melbourne to increase recycling and reduce waste, protect Australia’s unique threatened species and restore our waterways and coasts, and will provide essential resources and support to drive the delivery of the 2025 National Packaging Targets.

The National Consumer Education Program will receive $1.1m to create a consistent national approach to consumer education on reducing, reusing and recycling packaging over the next four years. This program will extend the reach of the Australasian Recycling Label Program, an evidence-based labelling scheme that was launched by the Hon Melissa Price in September 2018 and has since been adopted by more than 200 Australian organisations. This new funding will allow the program to expand and include away from home recycling, the use of recycled content, compostable packaging and encouraging reduction and reuse behaviours.

A further $1.6m in funding will support the development of a Circular Economy Hub, a new online platform and marketplace that will help drive innovation in the transition to a circular economy in Australia. In addition to highlighting the latest sustainability education and resources, the site will match buyers and sellers in waste resources to help them identify products with sustainable materials, including recycled content. This online marketplace functionality will help to build the critical end markets for recycled products in Australia and provide essential education to the supply chain about the availability of sustainable options.

The Regional Model for Soft Plastics Recycling project is a partnership between APCO and the Plastic Police, a program developed by Cross Connections to promote regional collection and recycling of soft plastics. The Plastic Police program is currently operating in the NSW’s Hunter Region and will receive $150k to explore opportunities for expansion, including deployment in other regions.

Finally, a further $150k will be provided to the Remote and Regional Waste Collection Partnership, a project aiming to support governments and communities to address the challenges of waste and resource recovery in remote and regional areas.

Brooke Donnelly, CEO of the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation commented: “We are delighted the government has recognised the value of the ARL and the other connected projects that APCO and our partner network is committed to delivering. This funding will enable us to continue our collaborative work with industry and our partners to ensure that we meet the 2025 targets and continue to work toward achieving a circular economy in Australia.”

“The Circular Economy Hub will provide businesses with the knowledge and tools needed for their transition to a circular economy,” said Paul Klymenko, CEO of Planet Ark Environmental Foundation. “An important element will be the Circular Economy Marketplace, which will act as the B2B ‘eBay’ for the circular economy. Planet Ark is thrilled to have been entrusted with the development of these vital tools.”

New glass technology to replace straws?

The very first plastic straw you ever used will be on the planet long after you’re not. Australians use over 10 million straws a day, which now feature in the top 10 of all ocean pollutants, yet they are still so popular.

Single-use straws are readily available through to bars and restaurants. The good news is that the masterminds behind new glassware brand Wave have spent the past six months developing a new concept to help eliminate plastic straw pollution. New Wave Glass will put an end to the need for disposable straws, and is inspired by the very thing it’s trying to protect – the ocean. With revolutionary, patented Dual-Chamber Technology, Wave Glass has an internal wall that sits down into the vessel – separating it into two chambers.

One chamber holds liquid mixed with crushed ice and garnish (or whatever features in your preferred drink). The other vessel acts as the drinking chamber, allowing only the chilled liquid from the bottom of the vessel to be enjoyed.

Plastic straws are too small to be recycled, with a huge proportion ending up in the Earth’s
oceans, and it’s estimated by 2050 every seabird will have plastic in its stomach. Plastic
ingested by fish is even entering the human food chain.

Now is the time to act, which is why Wave’s creators teamed up with The Last Straw to
support their cause and come up with a solution.

Eva Mackinley, Founder The Last Straw, says, “Over the last few years the plastic straw has
almost become a symbol of the waste-free movement. People, where possible, have widely changed their thinking and behaviour around disposable plastic straw use.

“While the market is becoming full of disposable alternatives vying for primacy, I have always believed the heart of it is about just using less, or engaging with BYO and reusable options.

The Wave Glass design offers the convenience of a straw but without the disposable factor.
The future of sustainability is material innovation and out of the box design solutions like
this.”

Preventing a global recycling Armageddon

Barry Cosier, director of sustainability for the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) tells Food & Beverage Industry News why there needs to be a rethink on how Australia recycles.

It would be fair to say that most Australians could not imagine life without household recycling. Kerbside newspaper collections commenced across the country in the 1970s and 1980s, followed shortly by the yellow-lidded bin collection of fully commingled materials.

Recycling has become as entrenched in the household routine as emptying the mailbox or locking the front door. Until now, perhaps.

Thanks to the introduction of the China Sword policy in 2017, the resource recovery and recycling sector is under immense pressure to sustain recovery rates; households are becoming reticent and unsure about the efficacy of their recycling efforts; and many are looking squarely at government and industry for a new solution. So, what does this mean for food and grocery manufacturers?

The good old days
Some people are old enough to remember when glass bottles were returned to the corner store for recycling and used milk bottles were collected by a pre-dawn milkman. While the recovery rates for these items were high, all other packaging material ended up in landfill. The introduction of commingled collection and recycling dramatically increased the recovery rates for paper, cardboard, plastic, aluminium, glass and steel, while concurrently reducing needless waste.

Over time, advancements in packaging technology also reduced food waste that was previously disposed of in landfill. Barrier protection materials increased the shelf life of products in store and the home, providing almost year-round availability of seasonal produce for consumers.

We now take for granted the many benefits that packaging affords: food safety, food freshness, tamper-evident packaging for medicines, hygiene barriers for personal products, portion control to reduce waste and obesity, and limited breakages in manufacturing, transport, retail and the home. The list goes on.

Like many industries over the last 30 years, China’s appetite for raw materials gave us a ready-made destination for discarded packaging. After sorting materials locally, Chinese recyclers would reprocess packaging into new products and new packaging materials, which were then marketed world-wide. Demand (and therefore prices paid for packaging materials) peaked to a point that some Australian recyclers could afford to sort recycled materials free of charge and pay local councils for the material collected at the kerbside.

It was almost too good to be true. And it was good until China implemented the China Sword Policy, effectively banning the receipt of mixed paper and plastics through setting very low acceptable contamination levels.

Recycling Armageddon
The introduction of the China Sword policy has left local kerbside recyclers with recycled materials that no longer meet the quality specifications required by global processors. The heydays of exporting to China have ended – with no plan B. Simply put, Australia does not have sufficient recycling processing infrastructure in place to recycle packaging collected at the kerbside.

This complex global problem cannot be solved by simple solutions that some may suggest.
All stakeholders along the supply chain – from packaging manufacturers, product manufacturers and retailers to the consumer, local councils, collectors, and recycling processors – have a role to play in finding environmentally and economically sustainable solutions.

Certainly, leadership and support from local, state and federal governments is essential. However, more importantly, industry must collaborate with all stakeholders and provide government with industry-led solutions if we are to gain their confidence and support in developing new local infrastructure that will meet the needs of both manufacturers and material processors. Put simply, all stakeholders must work together to safeguard the general public’s confidence in recycling.

Next steps: What can manufacturers do?
In the coming years, a circular economy must be developed. What is a circular economy? Simply put, it’s when waste materials, such as packaging avoids being landfilled and is repurposed or recycled to reduce the use of virgin materials. Examples include, converting plastic milk bottles into new milk bottles or into park benches, or using glass to make new bottles or low-grade glass in civil construction. With the federal government endorsing national recycling and recyclability targets for packaging, what can manufacturers do?

Increase recycled content
As manufacturers of grocery products, the first key step is to increase the amount of recycled material contained in product packaging. To drive this, the federal government has endorsed the packaging targets proposed by the Australian packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) to increase the recycled content of packaging to 30 per cent by 2025. Many manufacturing companies have already committed to this goal.

Design for re-use, recycling or composting
The second step is to increase the use of recyclable or compostable packaging where product freshness, safety, quality and food waste is not compromised.

Design for source separation
Use the Australia Recycling Label (ARL), which provides consumers with simple instructions on how to dispose of each packaging material type. The addition of tear tabs on multi-material packaging such as plastic blister on a cardboard backing, will encourage consumers to separate materials prior to placing it in the recycling bin.

An industry-wide approach
There are many food and grocery manufacturers that have already made commitments in the above areas. However, while implementation may appear simple on the surface, there are some real barriers that need to be addressed in order for product manufacturers to make progress. The Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) has collaborated with APCO, government, the packaging industry and the resource recovery and recycling sector to overcome the following barriers:
• Availability of recycled packaging materials
Retailers and manufacturers have broadcast their intent to purchase greater volumes of recycled plastics such as recycled PET (rPET), which is currently in short supply, particularly given the high standards for food grade materials. The AFGC is working with APCO and the packaging industry to increase availability of these materials.
• Research and development
The AFGC is working with APCO and the packaging and recycling industries to develop new compostable plastic substitutes that are fit-for-purpose and meet food grade and medicinal product packaging specifications. Additionally, research and development of new processing technologies that have the potential to recover materials currently landfilled are also required. For example, chemically processing end of life plastics (Numbers 4-7) into oil-based products such as bio diesel.
• Practical infrastructure planning
We will continue to collaborate with all stakeholders to identify the recycling infrastructure needs of a circular economy. This will be aligned with the changing mix of packaging materials as the availability of recycled packaging material increases and as new processing technologies are developed over the next five to ten years. This whole-of-supply-chain approach is critical to provide industry and government with confidence to invest in the plant and equipment that is necessary to achieve the national packaging targets.

The good news is that environmentally and economically-sustainable solutions are possible for all stakeholders along the packaging supply chain without compromising product freshness, safety, quality, or increasing food waste. But this will only occur with collaboration, with decisions based on facts, and undertaking research and development to provide new technological solutions for today’s issues.

Queensland sees 17 million containers returned in recycling program

Queensland’s container refund scheme, Containers for Change, has been in effect for just over two weeks, after starting in early November, and figures are showing more and more Queenslanders are embracing the recycling initiative.

Minister for environment and the Great Barrier Reef Leeanne Enoch said more than 17 million containers had been returned through the scheme so far.

“These are amazing results for Queensland’s new scheme.

“Queenslanders are able to get 10 cents back for recycling their containers, and $1.7m in refunds has already gone back to Queenslanders, community groups and charities,” said Enoch.

READ: Recycling program turns takeaway cups into kerbs

Queensland was one of the country’s worst performers in recycling, which is why schemes like Containers for Change are important in creating incentives to change behaviour, she said.

“It is obvious from these results that Queenslanders care about recycling, and want to improve how they manage waste.

“This is also just the beginning of the scheme, and these figures will continue to grow as more Queenslanders get on board and get containers for change,” said Enoch.

Community organisation HELP CEO Greg Luck said the partnership with Return-It, which is operating container refund points, has been able to help place people who have been out of the workforce for an extended time period back into paid employment.

“This initiative complements HELP’s initiative to provide tailored employment solutions to job seekers and employers in Australia, and we are proud to partner with Return-It Queensland,” said Luck.

Return-It managing director, David Singh is proud that one of its partnerships is with HELP.

“HELP plays an integral part in helping so many in our community. I think many people will opt to donate their refunds to this worthy organisation,” said Singh.

“Return-It benefits the customer, the community and the environment, and we can’t wait to see how the partnership with HELP grows,” he said.

Recycling program turns takeaway cups into kerbs

A new recycling solution taking shape in New South Wales is turning coffee cups into kerbs.

Simply Cups aims to recycle 11 million coffee cups into benches and parking kerbs with help from the NSW circulate grant program.

With an extra $115,000 in funding from the circulate program, Simply Cups hopes to divert 110 tonnes of cups from landfill within a year.

Used coffee cups are collected from commercial buildings, caterers and 7-Elevens in Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong.

READ: Funding boost for Victorian recycling sector

The circulate grant program supports projects that keep materials out of landfill.

This year, a project to use mushroom biotechnology to divert textile waste from landfill and a research project looking at using paper mill waste to rehabilitate dams with acid drainage issues have also received funding.

In the past five years the NSW government has awarded $407m to more than 1160 projects that are now recycling 2.39m tonnes of waste each year.

Environment minister Gabrielle Upton said recycling coffee cups is a high visibility issue that is being worked on.

“The more coffee cups we recycle, the less that are littered – and that’s a good thing for everyone,” said Upton.

“Making useful products from waste or recyclable materials is one of the ways NSW is working to be ahead of the game in its response to China’s National Sword policy, which has effectively closed the Chinese market to Australia’s recyclable waste,” she said.

Circulate is a six-year, $5.46m program designed to fund innovative, commercially oriented industrial ecology projects.

Circulate supports projects that will recover materials that would otherwise be sent to landfill, and to instead use them as feedstock for other commercial, industrial or construction processes.

Compostable packaging and data management solutions feature at waste expo

Food industry professionals had a chance to share ideas on data management solutions and sustainable packaging at the Australasian Waste and Recycling Expo (AWRE).

The expo, held on the 29th and 30th of August, aimed to challenge thinking about current waste standards and the future of waste disposal and recovery.

Exhibitors included companies that work with the food and beverage industry, such as ifm Efector, Source Separation Systems and DB Packaging.

Joshua Riley, from Source Separation Systems, showcased the company’s composting products.

READ: App takes bite out of food waste

The Kitchen Caddy is a container that houses compostable household waste, which can then be disposed of in a compost system or suitable council bins. The company also made a range of liners derived from corn that wasn’t fit for human consumption, Riley said.

“All the liners are Australian Certified compostable,” he said.

The liners left no plastic bits in the soil, like some biodegradable products did, he said. The ink used on the liners is soy based and also not toxic to the environment.

Riley said it was difficult getting people to change the way they thought about waste.

“It’s not rocket science. It’s not hard, but the challenge we face is that people don’t like change. Once you get their mind changed, it’s easy,” said Riley.

Rachel Beaver, educator and trainer at DB Packaging, also said people needed to change their mindsets.

DB Packaging makes compostable plates and bowls, and compostable transparent bags.

Many people used cling wrap to showcase the contents of a product, but there were other materials available, said Beaver.

“We don’t need cling wrap. We need to get people to change their minds,” she said.

“We are starting to work with different bodies to change consumers’ perceptions. Everyone has to be involved,” said Beaver.

Companies behind making products such as compostable containers and machinery used to deal with waste were also at the expo.

Ifm senior sales engineer Jason Woo said ifm provided mobile controls for hydraulic systems used by companies to lift bins and used for crushers, for example.

“The target market would be the machine builders for rubbish trucks,” he said.

Ifm also has a range of sensors that help with data management.

With effective data management people can see in real-time when machines need maintenance or when they are working overtime.

“It also monitors consumption so consumers can see what they are using too much of,” said Woo.

Being able to monitor machines easily, could help businesses save energy and save on costs, he said.

Everything waste-related was covered at the expo to materials, machinery and data solutions. The expo was held at the International Convention Centre at Sydney’s Darling Harbour.

Nestlé will use Australian Recycling Label on all Australian-made products

Nestlé Australia is committing to introduce the Australian Recycling Label across all of its locally made products, by 2020, to help consumers recycle their packaging correctly.

Nestlé has started to implement the new label, introduced on to Allen’s lollies in mid-August, beginning with Strawberries and Cream, and Snakes Alive.

Allen’s will also feature the REDcycle logo alongside the Australasian Recycling Label to educate consumers that its soft plastic packaging can be recycled via the in-store collection scheme.

Additional Nestlé products will start to include the new Australasian Recycling Label throughout 2018. 

READ: Nestlé seeks new options for Lean Cuisine in Australia

Nestlé Australia CEO Sandra Martinez said Nestlé was proud to be adopting the Australasian Recycling Label to help consumers correctly recycle by providing information as to which bin packaging should go in, or whether it could be recycled via approved collection programs such as REDcycle.

“Consumers have good intentions when it comes to recycling but they need clearer information,” she said.

“The Australasian Recycling Label will help to remove confusion, increase recycling rates and decrease contamination in recycling streams by helping consumers navigate the process,” said Martinez.

The Australasian Recycling Label shows what needs to be done with each piece of a package to dispose of it in the best way.

It indicates if packaging is recyclable via kerbside recycling, conditionally recyclable if additional instructions are followed, such as being recycled via programs like REDcycle, or not recyclable.

Planet Ark deputy CEO Rebecca Gilling said the commitment from companies such as Nestlé was an important one.

“We need widespread commitment from industry to apply the Australasian Recycling Label if it’s to become effective in helping consumers improve their recycling habit,” said Gilling.

The announcement to adopt the Australasian Recycling Label follows Nestlé’s global ambition to make 100 per cent of its packaging recyclable or reusable by 2025.

To achieve its 2025 goal, Nestlé will focus on three core areas: eliminate non-recyclable plastics; encourage the use of plastics that allow better recycling rates; and eliminate or change complex combinations of packaging materials.

Queenslanders to receive refund for recycling drink containers

From the 1st of November, Queenslanders will receive a refund for recycling drink containers.

The Queensland government’s container refund scheme will see people getting 10 cents back for recycling eligible containers at a range of outlets.

Minister for environment Leeanne Enoch said the scheme would encourage recycling while also reducing the amount of plastic seen in the environment.

“There will be a range of different type of refund point options such as permanent depot-style points, bag drops and reverse vending machines. Some container refund points will be mobile and use the ‘pop up’ concept to ensure the reach of our scheme extends into regional and remote areas,” said Enoch.

READ: Recycling crisis has employers eyeing sustainability skills

“By providing a range of convenient and accessible refund point solutions, more Queenslanders will be able to participate in and benefit from the scheme,” she said.

Not-for-profit group Container Exchange has been appointed to run the scheme. The company is implementing 230 refund points.

“There has also been strong interest from community groups about participating as donation points. These donations points will allow Queenslanders to donate their containers to a charity, community group or school, allowing these groups to get the 10-cent refund,” said Enoch.

“Mobile collection points provide a perfect solution for these groups, and for them, it could be as simple as setting-up a temporary collection point at the local football game on a Sunday to collect the empty drink containers. This will allow our vital charities and community groups to be able to raise money for their projects and programs,” she said.

Container Exchange acting chairman Alby Taylor said there was a great opportunity for community groups and sporting clubs to register as a part of the scheme.

“As we approach the commencement date, the community will see the options available to them to be able to benefit from the container refund scheme,” said Taylor.

“We are currently touring the state, in conjunction with Boomerang Alliance, holding community forums in various towns, to educate Queenslanders about the scheme. So far our forums have attracted nearly 1000 registrations,” he said.

 

Coles switches to recyclable and renewable meat packaging

Coles is introducing meat packaging made entirely from a combination of recycled and renewable material.

The new packaging will be used for a wide range of its Coles brand fresh meat and poultry products.

Coles bought about 121 million recyclable meat and poultry trays, in 2018, from Australian manufacturer Plantic Technologies.

Coles will use Plantic’s barrier trays, made from recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET), along with a thin layer of Plantic’s renewable barrier material to help keep the meat fresh.

READ: Coles and Woolworths still lead fresh fruit and vegetable market

During the recycling process, the thin plant starch layer washes away, allowing the PET tray to be recycled.

Coles director of fresh produce, Alex Freudmann, said it was an important step in Coles’ goal to become more sustainable.

“For four years, our Coles brand beef, lamb and pork mince has been packaged in recyclable trays sourced from Plantic. We now want to take the next step by transitioning a wider range of our fresh meat and poultry trays to Plantic’s new packaging, so that it is not just recyclable but also made from recycled plastics and renewable plant materials including corn,” he said.

“We understand the important role that packaging plays in maintaining food safety, supporting product longevity and reducing food waste. At the same time, we are committed to reducing our impact on the environment and continue to look for opportunities to increase the content of recycled material in Coles brand packaging and improving recycling communication to customers on pack,” said Freudmann.

Plantic’s materials carry the Australian Recycling Label, which provides consumers with information on what packaging can be recycled and whether it can be recycled in kerbside recycling.

Plantic Technologies CEO Brendan Morris said the company saw the partnership with Coles as a defining opportunity to strengthen the local recycling industry.

“The problem in Australia is that there hasn’t been lot of processing of kerbside recycling done on-shore. Instead we’ve been sending it to China. As a result, there has been little investment to reprocess the waste within Australia and there’s not enough capacity here. At the same time, Australia is importing plastic into the country that can’t be recycled. These two factors combined means the waste is just piling up,” he said.

“Plantic decided that if we’re really committed to this and want to make a benefit to the environment and make a real difference then we need to start now, with Coles supporting us.”

Coles aims to make all Coles brand packaging recyclable by 2020.

Sodexo Australia saves tonnes of food from going to waste

Sodexo Australia will divert tonnes of quality surplus food each year that might otherwise have gone to waste.

Sodexo will save more than 9920kg of surplus food, in a new partnership with online surplus food wholesale marketplace Yume.

Sodexo Australia chief financial officer and country president, Mark Chalmers, said the partnership would see products purchased through Yume used at Sodexo sites across Australia.

It forms part of Sodexo’s Better Tomorrow 2025 corporate responsibility roadmap.

READ: Perth hotel diverts food waste from landfill with BioBags

“Globally, Sodexo serves 100 million consumers every day, so we have tremendous capacity to reduce waste by improving how we deliver our services. We’re dedicated to finding new ways to minimise our collective waste and environmental impact and partnering with Yume is a great way to do this,” said Chalmers.

Recently, Sodexo Australia purchased more than 500kg of premium Australian feta cheese, more than five tonnes of crushed tomatoes and a range of poultry products.

To date, Sodexo has purchased 9920kg of food from Yume, equating to 684,480 litres of water saved and 20 tonnes of CO2 prevented.

The concept of Yume works off selling surplus stock of perfectly good food from quality HACCP accredited suppliers, including Unilever Foods Solutions and Mondelez, to prevent it from going to waste.

Yume founder Katy Barfield said the company was thrilled to partner with Sodexo.

“Australia sends a staggering 9.5 million tonnes of food to landfill each year and the Australian Government estimates that food waste is costing the economy $20 billion per year.”

To-date Yume has returned more than $1.5 million to Australian farmers and manufacturers and has diverted 300,000kg of product from going to waste.

Environmentally, this equates to 600 tonnes of CO2 prevented and over 20.7 million litres of water saved.

Recycling crisis has employers eyeing sustainability skills

Future university graduates could be the key to solving Australia’s recycling crisis if they hone their skills in sustainability, resource efficiency and waste management, according to a Deakin University environmental science researcher.

Deakin School of Life and Environmental Sciences lecturer Dr Trevor Thornton said the skills had emerged as a career-winning qualification on modern resumes, with more employers looking for candidates who had been trained in waste management.

Dr Thornton said there had been a major shift in the perception of waste management, with a new growth industry of experts now being employed to review organisational sustainability and waste action plans.

“The person responsible for waste management at an organisation used to be the cleaner, now we have sustainability managers at the executive level of major companies,” he said.

“More organisations and businesses are recognising the value of having a concerted sustainability plan and employing people with the skills to implement it.”

Dr Thornton said candidates with sustainability skills also stood out in other roles, particularly given the current national conversation about plastic bag bans and recycling issues.

“No matter what career path someone is undertaking, the issue of waste management gives them another string to their bow,” he said.

“Sustainability is a life skill, and the benefits aren’t just environmental – they can also help a business’ bottom line and perception among consumers.”

Dr Thornton said an understanding of regulatory controls, waste auditing techniques and minimisation methods, emerging technologies, clean production, municipal waste laws, and sustainability strategies would only become more valuable as resource management and waste issues continued to exacerbate.

“Whether you’re working in a lab, a factory, a retail business, city council or on a construction site, having the skills to recognise waste management issues and introduce sustainable alternatives makes you a very valuable employee,” he said.

Report into impact of China recycling ban released

The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) has released the Market Impact Assessment Report, a new study defining the impact of China’s National Sword policy.

Findings from the report reveal that the volume of Australian export of scrap paper and plastics has remained largely stable over the past 12 months, however their value has dropped significantly due to global oversupply.

Mixed paper scrap once valued at $124 per tonne (EXW) has dropped approximately 100% and is now close to worthless. Scrap mixed plastic has fallen 76%, from $325 per tonne to $75 per tonne and cardboard is now valued at $125 per tonne, falling 40% from $210 per tonne.

Brooke Donnelly, Chief Executive Officer of APCO commented: “What essentially lies at the heart of this issue is China’s decision to revise the contamination threshold for scrap paper and plastics. We need to develop the right domestic infrastructure to lower the contamination levels in our waste and start building viable end market solutions here in Australia to ensure a smaller, cleaner packaging waste stream”.

APCO is already developing a range of solutions to improve sustainable packaging design, reduce contamination and improve recycling rates.

 

Most recently, APCO launched the first nation-wide labelling program to help Australians better understand how to recycle packaging correctly and assist organisations in designing for recycling and working towards lowering contamination levels. Launched in conjunction with Planet Ark and PREP Design, the program has already been adopted by Australia Post, Blackmores, Nestlé, Officeworks, Unilever and Woolworths among others.

APCO has accelerated the delivery of the PREP design tool, an online evaluation portal that determines if a packaging format is recyclable or not in the current kerbside collection service. For the first time in Australia, organisations can develop their packaging to be recyclable where possible, driving waste avoidance outcomes at the design stage.

APCO is also currently reviewing its Sustainable Packaging Guidelines (SPGs) to help businesses reduce the environmental impact of their packaging and develop a standardised approach to key issues such as the use of recycled content in packaging.

“Transitioning to a circular economy is essential if we are to reduce the environmental impacts of packaging and this requires collaboration from brands, governments, the recycling and packaging industry and consumers alike. APCO is in a unique position to facilitate this collaboration and we look forward to working with all stakeholders to help Australia realise a circular economy,” said Donnely.

The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation is a co-regulatory, not-for-profit organisation that partners with government and industry to reduce the harmful impact of packaging on the environment.

 

 

Global green packaging market to reach US$207,543m by 2022

The global green packaging market generated revenue of US$132,556 million in 2015, and is expected to reach US$207,543 million by 2022, according to a new report.

Green Packaging Market by Packaging Type and Application: Global Opportunity Analysis and Industry Forecast, 2014 – 2022, published by Allied Market Research also found that the sector grew at a CAGR of 5.41% from 2016 to 2022. The food & beverage segment accounted for more than three-fifths of overall share in the applications segment.

Rise in hygiene & health concerns among consumers boosts the demand for green packaging with applications in sustainable packaging. Moreover, stringent government regulations on nondegradable plastics and increase in demand for recycled packaging products have fueled the market growth.

Furthermore, reverse logistics in packaging industry has eased the transportation of municipal wastes to recycle plants. Initiatives by multinational companies such as Dow Chemical Company, Henkel AG & KGaA, and Mitsubishi Corporation to promote sustainable development by forming a community called Together for Sustainability provides opportunity to the market. This initiative supports the United Nations Global Compact and Responsible Care to achieve sustainable development.

The recycle content packaging segment is expected to grow with a CAGR of 4.92%. Bioplastics have flourished in healthcare and pharmaceutical applications, and are accepted as an alternative for polymer oil-based products. In addition, reverse logistics and increase in number of legislations for ecological packaging techniques have facilitated the recycle of municipal wastes.

Key findings of the study:

  • The European region is expected to continue to lead the market, followed by North America during the forecast period.
  • German green packaging market is estimated with a CAGR of 5.10%.
  • The Middle East region is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 3.15%.
  • The North American and Asia-Pacific regions jointly accounted for more than half of the total share in 2015.
  • Utilization of degradable raw materials has shown major growth in developed and developing nations. In 2015, Europe demonstrated maximum demand for bioplastics with the potential to witness significant growth in future. In addition, Asia-Pacific accounted for approximately one-fourth share of the total volume.

The prominent players profiled in the report are Amcor Limited, E. I. DuPont de Nemours and Company, Mondi Limited, Sealed Air Corporation, TetraPak International S.A., Ardagh Group Co., PlastiPak Holdings, Inc., Bemis Company, Inc., Uflex limited, and ELOPAK AS.

 

Unilever commits to 100% recyclable plastic packaging

 

Unilever has committed to ensuring that all of its plastic packaging is fully reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.

The company has also committed to renewing its membership of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation for another three years and endorsing and supporting that organisation’s New Plastics Economy initiative. As part of this, it will publish the full “palette” of plastics materials used in its packaging by 2020 to help create a plastics protocol for the industry.

Unilever has also committed to investing in proving, and then sharing with the industry, a technical solution to recycle multi-layered sachets, particularly for coastal areas which are most at risk of plastics leaking into the ocean.

The company has already committed to reducing the weight of the packaging it uses this decade by one third by 2020, and increasing its use of recycled plastic content in its packaging to at least 25 per cent by 2025 against a 2015 baseline, both as part of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan. In 2015, it achieved its commitment of sending zero non-hazardous waste to landfill across its manufacturing operations.

“Our plastic packaging plays a critical role in making our products appealing, safe and enjoyable for our consumers. Yet it is clear that if we want to continue to reap the benefits of this versatile material, we need to do much more as an industry to help ensure it is managed responsibly and efficiently post consumer-use,” said Paul Polman, Unilever CEO.

As part of its commitment, the company will ensure that by 2025, it is technically possible for its plastic packaging to be reused or recycled and there are established, proven examples of it being commercially viable for plastics re-processors to recycle the material.

 

Container deposit schemes work: so why is industry still opposed?

Australians are serial wasters. For every 1,000 square metres (or about four tennis courts), Australians litter about 49 pieces of rubbish. The biggest culprits are drink containers, making up five of the top nine recorded pieces of litter by volume.

One way to reduce this litter is to refund people when they deposit drink containers for recycling through container deposit recycling (CDR) schemes.
South Australia and the Northern Territory have CDR schemes. In May this year, New South Wales Premier Mike Baird announced a CDR scheme for his state, to begin in July 2017.

Under the scheme most drink containers over 150ml will be eligible for a 10c refund through state-wide depots and reverse vending machines. This has re-ignited an ongoing debate, largely driven by the drinks industry, which – as previously debated on The Conversation – vociferously opposes these schemes.

Refunds work

As part of the NSW process, we at BehaviourWorks Australia at Monash University recently reviewed research and data from 47 examples of CDR schemes or trials around the world. This work was commissioned by, but independent of, the NSW Environment Protection Authority.

The 47 CDR schemes recovered an average of 76% of drink containers. In the United States, beverage container recovery rates for aluminium, plastic and glass in the 11 CDR states are 84%, 48% and 65% respectively, compared with 39%, 20% and 25% in non-CDR states. The figures are similar in South Australia, one of the longest-running CDR schemes in the world: 84%, 74% and 85% for cans, plastic and glass compared with national averages of 63%, 36% and 36%.

Some CDR schemes donate the refund to charity, but people are more likely to return a container for a refund. And the greater the refund, the greater the return rates. Most schemes refund 5-10c; the 11 schemes in Canadian provinces include those with refund rates as high as 40c for glass containers over 1 litre in Saskatchewan.

CDR schemes reduce litter overall. Data from seven US states show 69–83% reductions in container waste and 30–47% reductions in overall waste.

Finally, government CDR schemes are sustainable. The 40 government schemes worldwide have operated for an average of 24.8 years and all except two are still going.

Industry opposition

CDR schemes work, so why do they face continued opposition from the drinks industry?

The first major argument against is cost – to the public, to producers, to jobs and to government via, for example, a reduction in alcohol tax revenues due to reduced sales.

We found little published evidence to support these claims. The few studies identified were either funded by the beverage industry or theoretical arguments without any empirical data. Manufacturers and consumers will share the costs of the NSW CDR scheme, with consumers paying an estimated A$30 into the scheme annually should they not redeem any deposits.

The most robust cost data, the Packaging Impacts Decision Regulation Impact Statement, was prepared for the Australian government in 2014. This found that CDR schemes were more expensive than other packaging recovery and recycling options, but reduced litter the most.

The question of whether the cost is worth the return is an important aspect of the debate, and one that should be considered not just by the beverage industry but by all stakeholders, including the wider community.

Can industry do the job?

The second argument against government CDR schemes is that industry can recycle containers itself. Examples to support this argument are sparse and unconvincing.

In 2010, Coca-Cola launched a reverse vending machine scheme in Dallas Fort-Worth, Texas, with a target of 3 million beverage containers recycled per month. The scheme folded in October 2014, having achieved roughly a quarter of this target.

PepsiCo’s ongoing Dream Machine initiative of college-based reverse vending machines commenced in April 2010 with the goal of increasing the US beverage container recycling rate from 34% to 50% by 2018. It reported collection of over 93 million containers by 2012. Although an impressive-sounding yield, achieving the target of a 50% recycling rate would require multiplying this effort 400-fold.

These examples illustrate that industry-based CDR schemes appear either unsustainable or lack realistic targets.

Replacing recycling?

Thirdly, it is argued that CDR schemes will cannibalise existing kerbside recycling programs. The evidence suggests that the effect, if any, is the reverse – marginal increases in kerbside recycling have been noted following introduction of CDR legislation.

This may be linked to the “spillover effect” where people are more likely to do one thing if they are already doing something similar. The data from CDR schemes suggest that people may be more inclined to use kerbside recycling simply by buying a drink with a container deposit, not just getting the refund. As an example, South Australia’s overall recycling rate in 2008–2009 was 67%, against a national average of 51%.

Behavioural research also tells us that convenience is a major factor in CDR schemes, particularly how close collections are to people’s homes. Vending machines are perceived as convenient but data on whether they work are mixed.

There is also robust evidence that clean environments are likely to remain cleaner (than otherwise would be the case) and that littered environments are likely to attract more litter.

This underlines the findings from research that CDR schemes not only increase beverage container recycling, but reduce litter. Ongoing CDR debate should be informed by research evidence and involve all stakeholders in this multifaceted issue.

The Conversation

Peter Bragge, Senior Research Fellow, Healthcare Quality Improvement (QI) at Behaviour Works, Monash University; Breanna Wright, Research fellow, Monash University, and Liam Smith, Director, BehaviourWorks, Monash University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

NSW introduces drink container recycling scheme

NSW consumers will soon receive a 10 cent refund when they return their used drink containers to designated sites around the state.

AAP reports that NSW Premier Mike Baird yesterday announced that the NSW container deposit scheme (CDS) will come into force from July next year.

“This is an historical day for NSW,” Baird told reporters.

“Never before has there been an attack on litter like we are undertaking today.”

Beverage suppliers will pay for the refunds and also pay for handling and administrative fees. As such, before yesterday’s announcement environmentalists had feared the government would bow to industry pressure and water down the scheme.

However, as the ABC reports, Coca-Cola Amatil’s Jeff Maguire appeared with the Premier at yesterday’s launch and cautiously welcomed the scheme.

“[It’s] low cost, and efficient and effective for NSW going forward,” he commented.

Both the Opposition and the Greens also welcomed the announcement.

“If the NSW Government follows through and introduces a genuine container deposit scheme we will see a huge reduction in litter and the plastics that pollute our marine environment,” Greens MP and Environment Spokesperson Dr Mehreen Faruqi said.

Labor’s environment spokeswoman Penny Sharpe raised the need to now look at ways to deal with the problem of shopping bags and pollution.

The CDS was inspired by a similar system already operating in South Australia. Yesterday there were calls for the ACT to follow suit.

Kid’s own national food recycling scheme launched

James and Monica Meldrum, founders of Whole Kids Australia have teamed up with global recycling company TerraCycle to developed Australia’s first national recycling system for kid’s food packaging.

Wholekids is stocked in major supermarkets and is aiming to up cycle wrappers of children snack foods including organic juice, popcorn and fruit bites.

Established in 2005, Whole Kids has grown to become one of the largest ranges of certified organic children snack food companies.  The program will encourage kids to up-cycle their food pouches and snack wrappers with the free recycling program.

“The Kids Pouch and Snack Brigade is an ideal solution to packaging waste that can’t be disposed of through general household recycling collections. This means that packaging pouches and wrappers from Whole Kids products can be recycled and upcycled into useful items,” Monica Meldrum said.

The recycling programs target is to help the wider community, once collecting over a kilogram of waste product, consumers receive two cents that then can be donate to a local playgroup, school or charity of your choice.

With similar programs run by TerraCycle in Europe and America, Whole kids are confident that this recycling program will be a huge success in Australia.

“We’re looking forward to seeing the support from households, schools and playgroups for this exciting new initiative, and encouraging and educating future generations about the importance of recycling,” Monica Meldrum concluded.

 “We kept over four billion pieces of waster from landfills around the world”, Anna Minns, TerraCycle Australia General Manager said.

 Visit www.terracycle.com.au/whole-kids-brigade to learn more or to join the Brigade program.

Reducing food waste set to become the norm

A 2013 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) agreement to reduce food waste by 10 per cent across the region is picking up pace as researchers and technical team members work towards their 2017 goal of developing effective strategies and actions to address urgent global food waste issues.
 

A third of the edible parts of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted. That translates into about 1.3 billion ton per year. Lincoln University Associate Professor James Morton says reducing food waste is the logical first step in meeting the needs of a growing world population, which is predicted to reach nine billion by 2050. He recently attended the second of three APEC ‘Multi-Year Project’ meetings focused on addressing global food waste, where he spoke around the need to measure and reduce wastage in the livestock chain.
 
“Reducing waste and getting the best use out of what we produce makes far more sense than trying to increase food production by about 60 percent from what it was in 2005, which is what it would take to feed that many people. Producing more food through agriculture has consequences for the environment. At the moment we are taking more out than we’re putting back in. It’s not sustainable and we’re losing arable land.”
 

Issues around food loss and waste are complex and variable. Developing countries are most affected by food loss during production and food shortages, with 795 million people estimated to be chronically undernourished.  Developed countries are faced with massive food waste at retail and the point of consumption while dealing with an obesity epidemic, which affects about 600 million adults. 
 

Associate Professor Morton says finding solutions for food loss and waste is difficult when countries have different economies, production methods and natural resources. “There are no simple solutions, but there are things we can do such as minimising loss in the production process, reducing recalls, improving the cool chain and funding research into making the most use of co-products.”
 

A good example of where New Zealand has reduced losses in production by growing food to more accurate specifications is in the meat industry. Retailers catering for consumers who want less fat in their food are willing to pay more for lean meat. Farmers now grow lean animals which results in less waste of unwanted fat trimmings.
 
Meat consumption has increased significantly in recent years. “Urbanisation, a growing middle class and higher income are behind the growing demand for meat worldwide,” says Associate Professor Morton. “Livestock products offer high quality protein so meat is a very important food source.
 
“Most countries grow livestock to feed their own population. New Zealand and Australia are unique in that most of what is produced is exported. Because of that, waste is not such a concern here in New Zealand, but that waste is happening elsewhere instead – retailers carrying a wide variety of foods to respond to consumer demand and having to discard safe food by ‘best before’ dates to maintain quality standards and consumers with food left on plates and leftovers forgotten in the fridge, all lead to high levels of waste.”
 

Associate Professor Morton believes that livestock products are economically and nutritionally valuable, but that the high environmental cost of their production means reducing losses is essential. “New Zealand relies on its `clean green’ image so it makes economic sense to reduce the environmental impact of food production here.”
 

While the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation supports better and increased use of co-products, it also wants to see more food items remaining in the food chain. He says that livestock co-products are often low value nutritionally but there may be opportunities to develop meat and plant protein combinations for export, if it was economically viable.
 

Food security is not a concern in Australia or New Zealand at present, but the topic is crucial elsewhere and is a stated priority in most other countries. APEC leaders see reducing food waste as a primary related task for ensuring confidence in food supply. 
 

The ‘Multi-Year Project’ aims to identify key issues and make policy recommendations around possible solutions and action plans which will ultimately be provided to all APEC member economies. APEC says increasing access to food while protecting natural resources and the environment will require intense public-private co-operation such as that envisioned by the project.

 

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