CRAIG REUCASSEL, WRITER AND HOST OF THE ABC’S WAR ON WASTE AND THE CHASER
A manufacturer’s duty to reduce waste
Packaging in Australia is creating huge problems. Landfills are overflowing, oceans are being polluted and plastic is causing all kinds of issues along the line.
We spoke to Craig Reucassel, writer and host of the ABC’S War on Waste and The Chaser, about ways that manufacturers can help reduce the levels of waste in Australia.
The problem with plastic
Although there are many forms of waste that can be eliminated, one of the biggest concerns is with plastic.
According to the WWF, 95% of the plastic used in packaging is thrown out after its initial use. Because plastic can take hundreds if not thousands of years to biodegrade, we’re seeing a huge build-up of plastic waste in our landfills and our oceans.
There are arguments about whether the changes need to happen on an individual level, a manufacturing level or higher up, but at the very least everyone should be pitching in to make the world a cleaner place.
The case for companies reducing waste
While some companies are reluctant to make changes for fear of change itself or because they’re worried it will end up costing them more, this needn’t be the case.
Craig, however, thinks differently. He said, “Providing less wasteful packaging not only saves the environment, but can also save money for a company. It is also something that a lot of consumers are looking out for now.”
Consumers like sustainability
The popularity of Reucassel’s War on Waste series shows that there’s huge interest in the Australian population about packaging, recycling and waste. This is backed up by a Neilsen study that links sustainability claims of companies to increased sales.
Craig said that the overwhelming feedback from viewers of his show was that they wanted to produce less waste but weren’t sure how. He said, “People are frustrated a lot of the time. They want to reduce the impact of packaging but find it hard to avoid in many cases. I would like to see it far easier for consumers to know what packaging is recyclable and what packaging uses recycled content so they can support the companies with best practice.”
Steps are being taken in this direction with companies adopting the Australasian Recycling Label as standard. This simplifies the recycling process for a product. It shows whether something is recyclable at home, whether only certain parts are recyclable (and others, like the lid, have to go into the bin) or whether special steps, such as taking a bag back to the supermarket, are required.
Craig thinks this may take intervention at government level to be fully effective, but there are still steps businesses can take. He said, “There are some things that are hard for the consumer and even a business to control. We need far more leadership at the national level to make sure that our recycling system is working well and diverting materials from landfill and into proper reuse of resources.”
How to be a more sustainable company
There are several ways that manufacturing and packaging companies can make changes that have positive results down the chain.
Small changes to labelling to explain in simple terms if something is recyclable can help make sure people put it in the right bin, while changing packaging materials to reduce the levels of single-use plastics all go a long way to changing the waste landscape.
However, it’s important to make sure that progress stays on the right track, as all too often one improvement can be undone by poor packaging elsewhere.
Craig said, “I feel like it can be a bit one step forward, one step backward. You will see that supermarkets will remove unnecessary packaging from one item, but it seems to come back with a vengeance on another item.”
Inspiration from around the world
It’s not just Australia that has a problem with generating waste, so it’s a wise idea to look globally for solutions that we can implement here too.
When asked about projects he’d like to see implemented in Australia, Craig answered, “Still in its infancy, but the Loop system of reusable packaging being launched by TerraCycle is an interesting new way to look at consumer packaging.”
What TerraCycle is doing is changing the way packaging is thought of. At the moment, most packaging is a linear system – from factory to consumer to landfill. TerraCycle is aiming to make it circular.
One aspect of this programme is to work with major delivery companies to provide reusable packaging. Rather than delivering items in boxes, bags and envelopes that get thrown away, TerraCycle has created a reusable system that is being used by the likes of UPS in America.