Packaging plays an important role in maintaining product freshness, quality and safety across many product and food types. Australia’s food, beverage and grocery manufacturers, like the community and government, understand the impact that plastic and packaging can have on the environment when disposed of in an irresponsible manner.

Australia’s food, beverage and grocery manufacturers recognise there is increasing community and government interest in responsible sourcing, food waste and recycling. The sector has sustainable practices high on the agenda with many issues that need to be addressed – and opportunities to embrace.

Packaging sustainability is a key issue and that is why the sector has committed to increase the recycling rate and recyclability of product packaging through the 2025 National Packaging Targets.

While much focus has been on the waste export bans announced by the Council of Australian Governments in 2019, as well as the need for greater investment in the recycling sector, these are only part of the solution. The AFGC believes the food and grocery sector’s greatest contribution to Australia’s waste management is through the pursuit of a circular economy, by reducing food waste and increasing packaging recycling within the municipal solid waste sector.

While the sector is working hard to create a packaging circular economy, policy containing appropriate timeframes and incentivisation schemes is required to help businesses transition. In terms of the food, beverage and grocery manufacturing sector, the obvious area where the concept of the circular economy can be applied is packaging, especially plastic packaging. And in Australia, the sector is collaborating to make it happen.

In late 2020 the AFGC was awarded a grant from the Australian Government’s National Product Stewardship Investment Fund (PSIF), to develop a product stewardship scheme for plastic packaging with an initial focus on diverting soft plastics from landfill. As an industry-led and funded scheme, the National Plastic Recycling Scheme (NPRS) will coordinate and focus the efforts of food and grocery brands on significantly increasing the recycling and reuse of plastic packaging, helping to achieve the National Packaging Targets, and increasing the availability of high quality and safe recycled content.

Examples of sector activity

  • Food and Grocery manufacturers are investing in research and development to innovate packaging design to meet the National Packaging Targets.
  • Increasing the use of recycled content in packaging.
  • Rolling out the Australasian Recycling Label on packaging to guide consumers on what can be recycled and to assist brand owners improve packaging recyclability.
  • The AFGC has been collaborating with APCO to develop a process for brand owners to identify, phase out and substitute problematic and unnecessary single-use plastic packaging.
  • Sustainable Packaging Design: Brand owners are currently reviewing their packaging design utilising Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) guidance to identify problematic and unnecessary single use items and the PREP tool to assess packaging recyclability. In doing so, brand owners must ensure that product and food safety is not compromised and food waste does not increase.

October 2021