Australian brands promoting sustainable packagingPosted on August 20th, 2020 in Insights by AUSPACK
With the Australian government’s announcement of a new $190 million recycling fund in July, and new projects launched by the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) to help the industry meet 2025 targets, retailers and packaging manufacturers are being reminded that sustainability is still a priority, even in the midst of coronavirus disruptions.
Local businesses in need of guidance can look to some of the leading brands to see how they’re incorporating sustainability into packaging and processing.
One of the first companies to voluntarily sign up to APCO, Unilever reaffirmed its own sustainability targets last year to help Australia progress towards a circular economy for plastics.
These targets include reducing the use of virgin plastic across their organisation by more than 50% and collecting and processing more plastic packaging than they sell by 2025. The brand is already on track to achieve 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging within the next five years.
Looking further ahead, the consumer goods manufacturer aims to achieve net zero emissions by 2039 across its entire product range. One significant step in this direction was switching to 100 percent renewable electricity, which is expected to reduce carbon emissions by around 30,000 tons each year.
A recent partnership with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Australia also gives Unilever a platform to call on leaders to improve sustainability measures nationwide.
Woolworths Group has significantly reduced plastic packaging over the past year at stores across Australia. In the 12 months to June 2020, the food retailer reduced plastic packaging in its fresh produce department by 237 tonnes through measures such as replacing rigid plastic trays and clamshells with recycled cardboard packaging and paper tags for fruit and vegetables.
Woolworths own brand spring water bottles now also incorporate more recycled plastic and the retailer has removed around 134 million plastic straws and more than six billion single-use plastic bags from circulation since 2018. Paper shopping bags made from 70 percent recycled paper were recently introduced as an alternative to reusable plastic bags.
Other sustainability improvements at Woolworths stores include energy-saving measures such as replacing light bulbs with LEDs, upgrading to more efficient air conditioning and refrigeration and installing solar panels in more than 120 locations. Food waste has also been reduced by 33,000 tonnes by diverting waste to food relief and livestock farms. The Woolworths Odd Bunch food range also helps to support local farms by selling produce that would otherwise have gone to waste.
Woolworths has shown its support for other sustainability causes by announcing a partnership with Loop from 2021 to send food deliveries in reusable packaging and including REDcycle centres in stores to make it easier for shoppers to recycle. As the first supermarket to join the Australasian Recycling Labelling (ARL) scheme, Woolworths packaging clearly informs consumers about how to recycle or dispose of their products.
Coles has also partnered with the REDcycle program, becoming the first Australian supermarket to have recycling bins in every store nationwide. Around 30 million pieces of plastic are collected from these bins every month, totalling more than one billion units of plastic packaging diverted from landfill since 2011.
Soft plastics recycled by REDcycle are used as road asphalt additives, garden edging and other uses. Coles has also invested $300,000 in the Plastic Forests initiative to recycle soft plastics as steel-reinforced posts for fencing, aimed at helping Aussie farmers to rebuild following bushfires.
More Coles partner brands are also switching from plastics to more eco-friendly packaging. These include ready meal brand Dineamic, which reduced plastic use in its packaging by using new Halopack packaging. These 70 percent recycled cardboard trays with plastic film use modified atmosphere packaging technology to help keep food fresher for longer.
Like Woolworths, Coles has also reduced food waste significantly by donating edible food to organisations such as Foodbank and SecondBite and other foods to farms and animal shelters. Surplus bread products are also reprocessed into breadcrumbs and bread meal for use in pet foods.
Colgate-Palmolive in Australia has reduced recycled plastic content in packaging through its partnership with local manufacturer Wellman Packaging. Products such as Ajax Spray N’Wipe and Palmolive Dishwashing Liquid now make use of Wellman’s 100 percent recycled bottles, with other product ranges using Wellman’s 90 percent food grade recycled plastic.
Achieving such high rates of recycled plastic in packaging while maintaining its strength and performance is no easy feat, and costs to Colgate-Palmolive are considerably higher than less sustainable alternatives would be at present, demonstrating the brand’s commitment.
Wellman’s recent expansion will see the family firm continue to develop new solutions for local and global brands, with the objective of being “better than carbon neutral.” Fellow packaging manufacturer Pact Group has also invested $500m in facilities, research and technology to develop new materials that will help brands and their customers drive Australia towards its sustainable future.
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