New report shows urgent need to improve packaging recycling
APCO and ISF have today launched Packaging Materials Flow Analysis (MFA), a detailed study which maps the current state of post-consumer packaging in Australia.
The report highlights a compelling need to improve packaging recovery and recycling rates across all material streams. In 2017/18 Australia generated an estimated 4.4 million tonnes of total packaging waste, with 68% of this collected, and 56% of the collection total recovered by recycling efforts. This ranged from 32% for plastics and up to 72% for paper streams – highlighting the significant opportunity to improve waste management practices to achieve higher recovery rates.
Brooke Donnelly, APCO CEO commented: “To achieve the 2025 National Packaging Targets, we need to first understand the journey materials take along the entire supply chain and establish a baseline of data to measure change and interventions. This report, APCO Packaging Material Flow Analysis 2018, is the first step in this process.”
A critical first step in achieving the 2025 National Packaging Targets, the report outlines the current journey of Australia’s packaging waste from bin to landfill or reprocessing, identifies significant data and infrastructure challenges in the system and models five potential solutions for the future.
Dr Nick Florin, Research Director, Institute for Sustainable Futures (UTS) and co-author of the report commented: “There is great potential to step-up material recovery from the current overall recovery rate of 56% and at the same time increase demand for recycled materials to drive the transition to a circular economy for packaging. APCO, as the central product stewardship organisation, is well placed to support this coordinated transition that involves cooperation between consumers, designers, recyclers and packaging manufactures.”
The MFA also highlighted significant data and infrastructure gaps that need to be addressed before the 2025 Targets can be achieved. These findings will be used to inform additional packaging and recycling research to develop a complete picture of the current system.
Brooke Donnelly commented: “We can’t implement effective and meaningful changes to the system if we don’t first have a complete and accurate picture. A collaborative approach will be critical to building this. The challenge ahead of us requires a complete transformation of the current system. Over the next 12 months APCO will be leading an ambitious agenda of projects to build on the findings of the MFA. We look forward to working closely with all stakeholders as we transition to a circular model for packaging in Australia.”
The MFA Report is one of several APCO initiatives being conducted during the Foundation Phase of the targets (2019-2020) – the groundwork stage that focuses on research, engaging stakeholders and setting baselines and frameworks. Throughout 2018 APCO also facilitated a series of five, year-long industry working groups attended by more than 80 industry members from across the value chain and government to explore solutions to problematic packaging types (including glass, polymer coated paperboard (PCPB), soft plastics, biodegradable and compostable packaging, and expanded polystyrene).
In 2019 APCO will be co-ordinating 22 new projects to build on the findings of the MFA and the 2018 Working Groups. These will include further detailed research into packaging consumption and recycling to establish baselines for the 2025 targets, developing targeted design resources to improve packaging recyclability, and developing strategies to address problematic packaging, including plastics.
The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) is the agency charged by government to make all packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. To achieve this goal, APCO is working closely with government and industry to deliver a range of sustainable design, recycling, waste to landfill reduction and circular economy projects. APCO represents 1500 member companies, representing 153 separate ANZSIC codes, covering the entire product life cycle and supply chain. Recognised as one of Australia’s leading product stewardship organisations with a strong national and global collaborative network, APCO is committed to reducing the environmental impact of packaging on Australian communities by moving towards a circular economy.
About the Packaging Material Flow Analysis 2018
The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) commissioned the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology Sydney (ISF) to characterise the waste material flows through the Australian waste packaging system, using material flow analysis (MFA) methodology. The report was developed by Ben Madden and Nick Florin from the Institute for Sustainable Future, UTS. it combines data from government, industry and academic sources, expert interviews and peer review, and thorough mathematical modelling to understand the lifecycle of Australia’s post-consumer packaging.
About the 2025 National Packaging Targets
In 2018 Australia’s State and Federal Environment Ministers announced the 2025 National Packaging Targets and endorsed APCO as the agency to lead on achieving them.
The 2025 National Packaging Targets are:
1. 100% of all Australia’s packaging will be reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025 or earlier
2. 70% of Australia’s plastic packaging will be recycled or composted by 2025
3. 30% average recycled content will be included across all packaging by 2025 APCO MFA Report Briefing Kit – February 2019
4. Problematic and unnecessary single-use plastic packaging will be phased out through design, innovation or introduction of alternatives
UTS Institute for Sustainable Futures
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