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APCO report details Australia’s progress towards improving packaging sector

The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) has released the Australian Packaging Consumption and Resource Recovery Data report, which outlines the flow of packaging in Australia’s resource recovery system.

The report reveals that of the 5.45 million tonnes of packaging placed on market in Australia in 2017–18, more than half was paper and paperboard packaging (53.2 per cent), followed by glass packaging (23.3 per cent), plastic packaging (19.6 per cent) and metal packaging (3.9 per cent).

Paper and paperboard have the highest recovery rate at 63 per cent, followed by metal packaging at 48 per cent, glass packaging at 46 per cent and plastic packaging at 16 per cent.

The report details the complete Australian packaging ecosystem by combining data from packaging manufacturers, packaging reprocessors, material recovery facilities, and container deposit scheme (CDS) operators. The research also includes analysis of Australian import and export data.

Additionally, the report details how Australia is performing on the delivery of the 2025 National Packaging Targets – with new benchmark data in areas of packaging recyclability, recycled content uptake and plastic packaging recycling.

The National Packaging Targets, announced in September 2018, set the target for 100 per cent of all Australia’s packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025 or earlier. Currently 4.7 million tonnes (86 per cent) of all packaging in market in 2017–18 is recyclable.

In the field of recycled content, the National Packaging Targets set the target for 30 per cent average recycled content to be included across all packaging by 2025. This benchmark data has confirmed post-consumer recycled content across all packaging was 1.9 million tonnes, or 35 per cent of total packaging. With the 30 per cent recycled content target now exceeded, APCO will deliver a consultation process with industry to develop a new, more ambitious Target.

The single biggest challenge identified in the data was the recycling rate of plastic packaging. The National Packaging Targets set the target for 70 per cent of Australia’s plastic packaging to be recycled or composted by 2025. Currently 16 per cent of plastic packaging is being recycled or composted for future use.

APCO CEO Brooke Donnelly said the comprehensive and robust benchmarking data is one of the critical milestones in APCO’s delivery of the 2025 National Packaging Targets.

“[It is] a process that shows how Australia is performing currently and, most importantly, what needs to change in order to make the 2025 targets a reality. It’s encouraging to see such a significant majority of packaging – 86 per cent – is able to be recycled in the current system.

“However, what the data confirms for us is that plastic is the critical issue that needs to be addressed,” Donnelly said.

In February 2020, APCO will be releasing the 2025 strategic document, that sets out a series of key strategies to support Australia’s delivery of the targets. Plastics will be a central focus for this plan, along with a range of interventions and recommendations designed to close the gap between recyclable (86 per cent) and recycled (49 per cent) packaging in Australia.