Food & grocery manufacturers driving progress on solutions for plastic packaging recycling 

In response to a media report on Australia’s recycling performance, Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) CEO Tanya Barden says the low rate of plastic packaging recycling is disappointing for industry but projections for future recycling capacity show important progress is being made. 

“Australia’s food and grocery industry is undertaking significant work to improve rates of recyclability and recycling on all packaging,” Ms Barden said. 

“Substantial investments have been made in rigid plastics recycling and on soft plastic packaging, a model for a long-term, sustainable solution has been created with the industry-led National Plastics Recycling Scheme (NPRS).” 

The media report* states an upcoming Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation report shows current and planned investment will create capacity to recycle 60 per cent of plastic packaging placed on market. 

“The AFGC, with the keen support of the food and grocery industry, is quietly going about the work of designing a scheme and working with all parts of the soft plastics supply chain to create a sustainable, real-world solution to recycling plastic waste,” Ms Barden said. 

The NPRS is currently in advanced trials of kerbside collection of soft plastic packaging – the system called for by leading environmental and waste management bodies as the way forward for Australia. Trials are taking place in several local government areas across NSW, Victoria and South Australia. 

The NPRS has brought together manufacturers, councils, waste collectors and processors, advanced recyclers and plastic manufacturers to map out a sustainable soft plastics supply chain. Ms Barden said the collaboration behind the NPRS, which is supported by the federal government’s National Product Stewardship Investment Fund, is changing Australia’s recycling landscape. 

“Since work on the National Plastics Recycling Scheme began, the project has stimulated new commitments for investment in advanced recycling plants capable of turning used soft plastics back into oil, ready for manufacturing back into recycled, food-grade plastic films,” Ms Barden said. 

*(“Australia is way behind: Recycling targets fall out of reach”, SMH, 21/03/23)