APCO launches new strategy for compostable packaging

The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO), the Australasian Bioplastics Association (ABA) and the Australian Organics Recycling Association (AORA) unite behind common approach to compostable packaging.

APCO, in partnership with ABA and AORA, have today published National Compostable Packaging Strategy, a comprehensive new approach to how Australia can develop an environmentally sustainable system for compostable packaging.

With the deadline for the 2025 National Packaging Targets fast approaching, businesses and retailers have shown a growing interest in compostable packaging as a potential solution to their packaging waste. Today’s new strategy unpacks the opportunities and risks this presents, and outlines what changes are required to build a sustainable system for such packaging that will support Australia to meet the 2025 National Packaging Targets.

Issues explored by the strategy include how and where this type of packaging should be applied, how it can support the recovery of food waste, and how to ensure it is recovered at end-of-life and has beneficial end uses. It also highlights problematic materials that are being phased-out, including oxo-degradable or fragmentable plastics.

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Key challenges for such packaging are also outlined, including limited collection and processing facilities, market confusion and misinformation, and the inability of users and organics recyclers to easily identify and distinguish compostable from non-compostable packaging. It then sets out the systemic changes that are required across the complete packaging lifecycle – including at the design, collection, and recycling phases – in order to overcome them. These include continued innovation to improve the functionality of this type of packaging, and the ongoing national rollout of FOGO services to households and food collection services to businesses to ensure that these valuable materials can be recovered, rather than lost in landfills. Investments in packaging design, recovery infrastructure and education are also called out as essential steps to ensure that compostable packaging achieves its potential to generate environmental and commercial benefits.

“Compostable packaging is one of the solutions available to businesses looking to meet the 2025 National Packaging Targets, but we know that it is a market that is causing real confusion, for both industry and end consumers. With more and more businesses looking to do the right thing and meet the 2025 Targets, it is critical that they receive accurate and consistent information about [this type of] packaging. We also need to ensure that the critical processes and infrastructure are in place to collect it and process it. We are delighted to launch this new strategy today with the two leading industry associations, to set a consistent and comprehensive national approach to compostable packaging that’s both good for business and good for the environment,” said Brooke Donnelly, CEO, APCO.

Approximately 11,000 tonnes of packaging placed on the Australian market in 2018–19 were certified compostable plastic or fibre. APCO tracks the volume of compostable packaging placed on the Australian market through its annual Materials Flow Analysis report (Australian Packaging Consumption and Recycling Data 2018-19). This type of packaging was also an area of focus in APCO’s 2018/19 Working Groups, established to investigate problematic packaging format