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How to give recycled life to packaging

In the Keynote session on Day 4 of the Australian Institute of Packaging Virtual Conference, Terracycle Australia and New Zealand general manager Jean Baillard led with the topic: From disposability to reusability with cutting-edge technology and design that will change the face of packaging as we know it.

Baillard echoed the statement that many speakers had voiced at the conference that Terracycle was committed to eliminating the idea of waste. “We believe that every product can be recyclable and the question we ask is ‘how can we give that life to packaging?’ But the reality is different as today most packaging goes to landfill.”

He explained that Terracycle works with the FMCG companies and retailers who will fund recycling. “In Australia, there are over 45,000 collection teams such as schools, offices and community centres that take part in our recycling initiatives. We run those product stewardship schemes for hundreds of products around the world.

“We also work with retailers such as Officeworks and we try to make recycling engaging and fun for consumers. For example, the Tokyo Olympic podiums are being made by beauty products that we have collected across the country,” he added.

Second life

According to Baillard, once we look at giving products a second life we look at how we can incorporate waste into the plastic packaging and thereby close the loop.

“We do that by working with CleanUp Associations around the world. The plastic that is sent to Terracycle is sorted, shredded, washed and turned into plastic pellets and then into products.

“While making products recyclable is critically important, we also understand that we are not solving the root cause of waste which is disposability. This is why we created Loop, which is a zero-waste shopping platform which was launched in 2019 at the World Economic Forum.

Loop is operating internationally and Baillard said he expects it to launch in Australia in Woolworths in late 2021.

“As the Loop service in Australia will originally be launched online, customers will pay a fee for the use of the returnable containers. They then place online shopping orders, as with any other ecommerce grocery service. The difference comes when their shopping is delivered. It arrives in a large, insulated box with individual products supplied in reusable containers. The box is used to store the empty containers, which are collected by Loop to be washed and used again; there are no wrappers or boxes and no single-use plastics,” he explained.

Baillard explained that any recoverable content within used packaging will be reused or recycled using Loop. He expects the system will also enable people to use and buy products in brand-specific, customised packaging that can then be reused and refilled after it is collected and cleaned.

He said that Terracycle was inspired by recycling models of the past such as the milkman collecting and delivering the milk.

“So, by changing the ownership back to the consumer from the manufacturer, it unlocks so many new opportunities. The brand can either innovate or go back to their iconic format.”