You may or may not have heard of China’s decision to limit the type and amount of waste it is receiving for recycling. Perhaps in response to this announcement, Australia’s State and Federal Environmental Ministers have announced historic targets to make all packaging recyclable, reusable and compostable by 2025. Given today is World Environment Day we thought we would check in with Brooke Donnelley the CEO of the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO), to see how we are going with this ambitious target.
APCO is a not-for-profit member organisation that partners with government and industry to reduce the harmful impact of packaging on the Australian environment. Members range from local SMEs to big corporates such as Woolworths and Nestle. APCO’s aim is to work with businesses to help them transition to a closed loop sustainable packaging model.
Donnelley tells Kochie’s Business Builders (KBB) the stakes are high. She suggests the China ban is one of the biggest environmental challenges that Australia has ever had to face. However, she also believes it provides Australia with the chance to create a new sustainability model.
“It presents a huge opportunity for us as a country to transform the way we think about waste and businesses of all sizes play a huge role in the designing and implementing of sustainable packaging solutions,” she says.
Donnelley describes the 100 per cent recyclable, reusable or compostable target as a monumental call to action.
“To make this goal a reality, we need to focus on three key areas: the first is to improve our approach to sustainable packaging design and make sure companies of all sizes create products that can be recycled from the start. APCO will be developing a range of resources to support businesses, including SMEs, in transitioning towards this ambitious target and help support long-term sustainable packaging solutions.”
The next strategy involves closing the loop.
“The second is developing end markets – which means finding uses for recycled material, like the fantastic new road surface launched in Victoria by Downer and Close the Loop, utilising recycled plastic and glass.”
Finally, Donnelley suggests there is an enormous need to lower the contamination levels in our waste stream.
“Essentially this comes down to ensuring that we as consumers are putting the right objects in the right bin.
“I understand that’s not always easy – recent research found that seven out 10 Australians say they look for recycling information on packaging, but they are often confused as to how to correctly recycle. This includes businesses too.
“That’s why in January in conjunction with Planet Ark, we launched the new Australasian Recycling Label, the country’s first standardised, evidence-based recycling label. A consistent and easy to use label will help to make this process easier and will be rolled out on packaging for brands like Australia Post, Blackmores, Nestlé, Officeworks, Unilever and Woolworths, with smaller local businesses being encouraged to adopt the label also.”
On this World Environment Day, Donnelley is calling on all Australians and businesses to do their bit to make the target a reality.
“Transitioning to a circular economy is essential if we are to reduce the environmental impact of packaging and this requires collaboration from brands, governments, the recycling and packaging industry and consumers alike.”