New APCO report maps the state of packaging in Australia and progress on Australia’s 2025 National Packaging Targets

Subject: Collective Impact, 2025 Targets

18 January 2021


New APCO report maps the state of packaging in Australia and progress on Australia’s 2025 National Packaging Targets 

The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) has today published ‘Australian packaging consumption and recycling data 2018–19’ a new report tracking Australia’s progress towards the 2025 National Packaging Targets (2025 Targets).


The second in a series of annual publications mapping the state of packaging in Australia, the report’s findings demonstrate that overall trends are positive, and Australia is making progress towards the 2025 Targets year-on-year. However, significant action from stakeholders across the supply chain is still required in order for Australia to meet the 2025 Targets.


The 2018–19 benchmarking results include:

  • Target 1: 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging.
    • Result: Proportion of recyclable packaging increased from 88% to 89%
  • Target 2: 70% of plastic packaging being recycled or composted.
    • Result: The plastics recycling rate increased from 16% to 18% (Figures are higher for individual polymers e.g., 36% of PET and 23% of HDPE were recycled).
  • Target 3: 50% of average recycled content included in packaging (revised up from 30% in 2020).
    • Result: average recycled content increased from 35% to 38%
  • Target 4: The phase out of problematic and unnecessary single-use plastics packaging.
    • Result: apparent reductions in some of the priority materials - PS, EPS, PVC.


The report shows improvements to packaging sustainability in a range of areas including a reduction in the volume of plastic (-6%) and an increase in the volume of recyclable packaging on market.


The biggest area of challenge continues to be the recycling rate of plastics. While the recovery rate increased from 16% to 18%, significant progress is still required to meet the 2025 Target of 70%. These findings clearly support the need for stronger interventions into the way Australia manages plastic packaging.


This year’s report also contains new data exploring the volume of packaging in landfill and reusable packaging formats. 2.9 million tonnes of packaging were disposed to landfill in 2018-19, accounting for 50% of the total amount of packaging placed on market. The impacts of landfilling instead of recycling these materials include lost economic value of around $520 million (the value of this packaging if it had been sorted and diverted to recycling instead of landfill) and an additional 2 million tonnes of CO2 emissions.


The 2020 report also quantified reusable packaging for the first time. The pilot project examined material flows associated with five common reusable packaging systems, which were found to avoid the use of an estimated 1.7 million tonnes of single-use packaging. This demonstrates the enormous potential of reusable packaging systems to reduce consumption of single-use packaging, which will be a major area of focus for APCO and its Members over the next five years.


Brooke Donnelly, APCO, Chief Executive Officer, commented: “I cannot overstate the importance of taking collective action to work together in response to the issues identified in this report


There are plenty of positives to take away from this year’s findings and it’s particularly heartening to see that almost 9 out 10 items of packaging on shelves can now be recycled. However, what the data reiterates for us yet again is that plastic recycling is the critical issue that needs to be addressed


We currently have more than 1500 organisations, representing the complete supply chain, actively working to deliver the 2025 Targets. It’s time for all stakeholders to actively be part of the community driving the change towards a more sustainable approach to packaging in Australia - to find out more get in touch with APCO today.”


Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environmental Management, Trevor Evans MP, said: “I welcome this new report from APCO and the data that shows we’re working towards the 2025 National Packaging Targets. Getting to 100% reusable, recyclable and compostable packaging across the country will set us on the path to creating a vibrant circular economy in Australia.


“While it’s great to see many improvements in the sustainability of our packaging, significant action from stakeholders across the supply chain is still required in order for Australia to meet the 2025 Targets.


“The recent passage of the landmark Recycling and Waste Reduction Bill 2020 through the Parliament underlines the government’s commitment to taking responsibility for our waste”.


Australian packaging consumption and recycling data 2018–19 is available to download here along with the Executive Summary. APCO has a range of resources to help the Australian packaging supply chain take action on the 2025 Targets. For more information visit apco.org.au/resources.



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Notes to Editors 

Summary of findings:

Progress against the 2025 National Packaging Targets

  • Target: 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging.
    • Result: Proportion of recyclable packaging increased from 88% to 89%
  • Target: 70% of plastic packaging being recycled or composted.
    • Result: The plastics recycling rate increased from 16% to 18%
    • Figures are higher for individual polymers e.g., 36% of PET and 23% of HDPE were recycled.
  • Target: 50% of average recycled content included in packaging (revised up from 30% in 2020).
    • Result: average recycled content increased from 35% to 38% (higher for paper and paperboard at 51%)
  • The phase out of problematic and unnecessary single-use plastics packaging.
    • Result: apparent reductions in some of the priority materials - PS, EPS, PVC.
  • 72% reduction in the quantity of lightweight shopping bags since 2016-17

 

 

Packaging placed on market (POM):

  • Total POM (excluding wood packaging) increased from 5.5 mt to 5.8 mt (6% increase),
  • 12% increase in paper & paperboard – this has been attributed to increasing online sales (corrugated boxes going direct to consumer) and significant growth in kraft paper as void fill (also linked to online shopping and industry’s move away from EPS)
  • 6% drop in plastic packaging. 


Recovery rates:

  • Recovered packaging increased from 2.7 mt to 3 mt (12% increase)
  • Paper & paperboard recovery increased 13%
  • Overall recycling rate increased from 49% to 50%.


New data collected in 2020: packaging in landfill

  • New data gathered in 2020 explores the volume of packaging entering landfill every year and the range of powerful benefits improving recovery rates would have for the Australian economy and environment.
  • 2.9 million tonnes of packaging were disposed to landfill in 2018-19, accounting for 50% of the total amount of packaging placed on market
  • The impacts of landfilling instead of recycling available material include:
    • Economic cost: Landfilling instead of recycling available material represents a lost value of around $520 million (the value of this packaging if it had been sorted and diverted to recycling instead of landfill)
    • Carbon cost: Landfilling instead of recycling available material resulted in approximately 2 million tonnes of CO2 emissions.


New data collected in 2020: reusable packaging

  • This year’s report contained a pilot exercise to develop the methodology for incorporating reusable packaging flows into the core consumption and recovery dataset in future.
  • Five established Australian reusable packaging systems were selected for this pilot quantification:
  1. Kegs – Beer kegs only
  2. Pallets – Reusable timber and plastic pallets only, including display pallets; single-use pallets are excluded
  3. Milk crates – Non-collapsible plastic crates. Limited to dairy product applications only
  4. Returnable plastic crates (RPCs) – Collapsible plastic crates.
  5. Reusable shopping bags – Reusable non-woven polypropylene (PP) bags, and reusable low density polyethylene bags (supermarket type)
  • These five reusable packaging systems avoided the use of an estimated 1.7 million tonnes of single-use packaging. This demonstrates the enormous potential of reusable packaging systems to reduce consumption of single-use packaging, which will be a major area of focus for APCO and its Members over the next five years.


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About APCO (www.apco.org.au)

The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) is a not-for-profit organisation leading the development of a circular economy for packaging in Australia. APCO works with governments, businesses and other organisations from across Australia’s large and complex packaging value chain to develop the insights, resources and programs that are needed to build a sustainable national packaging ecosystem. In 2018, APCO was endorsed by government to lead the delivery of Australia’s 2025 National Packaging Targets and ensure all packaging is 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. 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 2025 National Packaging Targets.

The 2025 Targets were launched by government and industry in 2018, providing a clear mandate to deliver a new sustainable pathway for packaging in Australia. The four targets, to be achieved by 2025, are:

  • 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging
  • 70% of plastic packaging being recycled or composted
  • 50% of average recycled content included in packaging
  • The phase out of problematic and unnecessary single-use plastics packaging.


About ‘Australian packaging consumption and recycling data 2018–19’

‘Australian packaging consumption and recycling data 2018–19’ a new report tracking Australia’s progress towards the 2025 National Packaging Targets. The report is the second in a series of annual publications mapping the state of packaging in Australia. In 2018 and 2019 the reports were used to set a quantitative baseline for the packaging system, identify the greatest gaps and opportunities for change, and inform the strategic direction of the Our Packaging Future publication – Australia’s roadmap to 2025. Now in 2020, the report provides insight into the trajectory of progress against the 2025 Targets