Recycling rate continues to rise

Tuesday, 12 March, 2013

The Australian Packaging Covenant (APC) has announced that the overall recycling rate for post-consumer packaging in Australia is 63.8% for 2012. Collaborative product stewardship actions have led to this considerable improvement in the recycling rate from the 39% baseline established in 2003.

The establishment of the Packaging Covenant itself is said to have had a direct contribution to the increased national recycling rate. APC-funded projects have accounted for up to 32.4% of the overall increase in recycling tonnes from 2005-2012.

APC CEO Stan Moore said, “We are pleased to see the recycling rate continue to increase overall despite the difficult trading conditions. The Australian Packaging Covenant has a number of key projects in the pipeline and would expect these to start contributing to future increases.”

There have been increases in recycling tonnes for all but one material type.

The recycling rate for paperboard packaging has increased to a new record level of 76.8%, which is a 1.5% increase on last year and up by 5% since the stronger market prior to the global financial crisis.

The plastic packaging recycling rate is now a world-leading figure at 41.5%. Consumption of plastic packaging has decreased by 2.3% over the previous year, reflecting factors such as the implementation of sustainable design considerations, eg, light-weighting. Plastic packaging recycling has increased by 7.8% over the same period, reflecting increased efforts to recover plastic packaging.

Consumption of aluminium cans decreased by 7.5%, as did total recovery at 2.7%, resulting in an improved recovery rate of 67.3%. There has been a rise in the imports of beverage containers by 3.7% over 2011-12, though total imports remain a relatively small proportion compared to domestic production.

Collected separately, recycling tonnages of aerosol cans have remained constant with a decrease in consumption, lifting the total aerosol recycling rate to 49.3%. As aerosols are not included within the recovery rate methodology, this has not been reflected in the overall 2012 recycling rate.

A decline in consumption for steel cans and an increase in the total recycled increased the recovery rate by 4.7% to 38.9%. While the demand for steel packaging from the food sector has been relatively stable, it is believed that adverse weather conditions may have been a factor in decreased consumption as there has been less steel required for the packaging of local produce.

There has been a decrease in the glass recycling rate by approximately 2% over the past 12 months. Behind these figures has been a significant structural change in recovery with one facility closure and a new facility commissioned in NSW, in addition to an increased consumption of imported beverage containers.

The APC will continue to focus on the issues, barriers and opportunities of packaging recovery to continue to drive the recycling rate upward in the future.  All parties in the packaging supply chain and all levels of government remain focused on the achievement of an overall recycling rate of 70% by 2015.

The APC is an agreement between companies in the supply chain and all levels of government to reduce the environmental impacts of consumer packaging by encouraging improvements in packaging design, higher recycling rates and better stewardship of packaging.

Recycling rate Paper fibre Glass Plastic Steel cans Aluminium cans Overall
2012 rates 76.8% 47.3% 41.5% 38.9% 67.3% 63.8%
2003 baseline 49% 26% 20% 36% 63% 39%

Product materials recycling rates - base year to current year.

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