Packaging covenant talks recycling

Wednesday, 05 October, 2005


The Australian Institute of Packaging in conjunction with the Centre for Design, RMIT University and the Sustainable Packaging Alliance combined to present a half-day forum on the New Packaging Covenant. Participants debated the issues surrounding the NPC that is due to expire this year and be replaced with NPC mark 2.

The covenant has been the guiding light for the packaging industry in Australia to comply with the needs of government in matters connected with the environment without the need for regulation. The new covenant is in the final stages of planning and will be significantly strengthened.

Ed Cordner, representing the NPC council, led the discussion and detailed the changes that will be incorporated in the NPC 2, including the need to deliver measurable outcomes from clear action plans that are in line with the overarching targets of government.

A major plank will be the reduction in packaging material going to landfill which will be brought about by increasing the percentage of material recycled and reused.

The major difference will be that the new covenant will be highly focused on key performance indicators and a strengthening of the enforcement and compliance aspects.

Gavin Williams, the CEO of the Packaging Council of Australia, said that over 600 signatories to the current covenant are keen to sign onto the new document. The new covenant would offer real prospects for further environmental improvements and called for a national uniform data collection and reporting system.

He also wants imported material to be 'tradable' otherwise Australian industry is disadvantaged, and used recycled PET as an example. Virgin material is 20% cheaper than recycled and recycling is somewhat counterproductive as is 'closed loop' philosophy.

Scott Moloney from the Environment Protection Agency claimed that all states and territories are in concert in delivering the NEMP and talked about overarching targets such as 51% of industrial and municipal waste to be recycled.

Matthew Hallisey of Dulux said it is possible to push the recycling envelope with very positive results.

In a joint venture with a hardware chain the company embarked on a pilot program to take back unwanted paint from consumers. After a weekend trial the pilot was extended for one month with: 42 tonnes of unwanted paint delivered to store by householders; 22,000 containers collected, decanted and recycled; steel cans amounted to 10 tonnes; 6000 L of reclaimed paint was reprocessed into 12,490 L of fence paint.

Interestingly, he said, most local councils do not accept paint or paint cans in annual hard waste collections, which in any case generally goes straight to landfill.

Graham Clarke, representing retailers, said there is a total emphasis on kerb-side collections which do not involve retailers.

Supermarkets are haphazard in their approach and commitment was not all encompassing with a strong emphasis on plastic shopping bags while avoiding other issues.

He said that fresh food was the winner in delivering environmental outcomes and asked the assembly to consider just one result; that being the reduction in the volume of plastics material used in packaging fresh chickens.

Bob Benyon from the Victorian Municipal Association is in favour of regulation because everyone is then required to comply but said container deposit legislation is a poor model for the outcome required by the covenant.

He said kerb-side collections obtain 45% of revenue from glass containers and introducing CDL would make kerb-side programs a financial disaster.

Roy Morgan research showed 70% of consumers believe the manufacturers are responsible while 56% consider consumers are responsible to a degree.

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