Australia, Circular Economy, News

Harmonisation and collaboration: key themes of first Plastics Summit

Councils, industry and non-governmental delegates attending the Plastics Summit in Canberra yesterday, heard a strong call for the creation of national collection specifications and standards to simplify the challenge of plastic waste. This issue was amongst several which emerged from a series of roundtable discussions led by specific industry experts.

The session Addressing plastics at its source discussed ways to reduce the amount of plastic produced. The suggestions from delegates included:

  • acknowledging the potential of design
  • improved consumer education to reduce confusion
  • addressing the high demand for recyclate and the low supply

Plastics and our daily life considered how we can better help households and communities manage their plastic needs and waste. The suggestions included:

  • scale really matters on several levels such as recycling plants and communications
  • develop demand for recycled products and other outcomes will flow
  • standardisation and national specifications will simplify processes

The Plastics Revolution discussed opportunities to harness the latest technologies for recycling plastic types, plastic material standards, products design solutions and processing solutions. The suggestions included:

  • our systems problem needs a system solution and collaboration across the supply chain
  • incentivisation is required to attract long term contracts if we don’t penalise operators (as they do in the UK)
  • there needs to be harmonisation across the collection process and local governments need to develop a mature mindset

Plastics in the Economy discussed how we can better connect the different stages of the plastic value-chain. The suggestions included:

  • we need a vision to mainstream resource recovery
  • serious investigation into the important role of legislation to lift recycling rate
  • new modes of collaboration and de risking required

Oceans and Waterways discussed ways to reduce plastic marine debris and microplastics/beads entering our oceans and what needs to be done to reduce this impact on the environment. The suggestions included:

  • education is key and we need another contemporary campaign similar to Keep Australia Beautiful
  • ban single use plastics
  • make clothes that ensure that we aren’t shedding microfibres

Assistant Minister for Agriculture, Water and Environment Trevor Evans, who also received suggestions from school children attending the event, wrapped up the presentation at the end of the day.

“Before markets are formed and we begin to take action, we have to carefully look at the impacts on both supply chains and consumers,” he said.

This was followed by Minister Ley who acknowledged the industry for the ongoing commitment to reducing the environmental impacts of waste plastics and making fundamental changes to their business operations to help transition Australia to a circular economy by turning waste into a resource.

Pledges lift investment

A raft of industry pledges were also made throughout the Summit and kicked off by $500 million commitment from the Pact Group into sustainable packaging, reuse and recycling initiatives that will create new jobs. Pact non-executive chairman Raphael Geminder said the commitment by Pact would involve significant investment in existing and new facilities over the next five years, with the company working collaboratively with government and like-minded partners.

The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) said it will lead the development of the ANZPAC Plastic Pact, by joining the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s global Plastics Pact network.The ANZPAC Plastics Pact, which will launch to the public in late 2020, will work with businesses, governments and NGOs from across the plastics value chain in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Island nations to develop a common vision of the circular economy for plastics.

Australia Post committed to making 100 per cent of its plastic satchel range from recycled content by 2021. Australia Post executive general manager community and consumer, Nicole Sheffield, said the commitment underlined Australia Post’s drive towards a sustainable future.

Nestle and Australian recycler iQ Renew will trial a project to collect soft plastics from over 100,000 homes through kerbside recycling and diverted from landfill. iQ Renew CEO Danial Gallagher said there is an opportunity in turning soft plastic from a waste to a resource.

McDonalds will remove 585 tonnes of plastic cutlery from their Australian stores by the end of the year on top of its previous commitment to removing 500 million plastic straws.

Qantas has also pledged to remove 100 million single-use plastic items, such as cups, cutlery and meal boxes by end 2020 replacing them with compostable items.

Unilever will halve the amount of virgin plastic it uses by buying more recycled plastic and reducing the amount of plastic it uses in its packaging by more than 100,000 tonnes.