The federal government has announced $60 million in additional funding to boost the Recycling Modernisation Fund (RMF) and accelerate the uptake of recycled content in plastic packaging and products.
This new investment takes the RMF to $250 million, building on the $190 million announced last year, which is driving a $1 billion transformation of the waste and recycling sector. The funding will drive action towards achieving the 2025 Target for 70 per cent of plastic packaging to be recycled or composted.
The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) welcomed the announcement.
“It is crucial that recovered plastic is treated as a resource and seen as a critical way to ‘close the loop.’ No materials are truly recycled until they are used again so it is vital that we expand our end markets for recovered plastic to ensure it goes back into the economy. This is the final step in a transition to a true circular economy,” APCO CEO Brooke Donnelly said.
“Innovative solutions to help businesses to increase the amount of recycled plastic being used in new packaging are essential. This funding will be key to supporting industry on this journey – to a future where plastic is no longer waste.”
Plastic faces particular challenges, with an average of 95 per cent of plastic packaging currently consisting of virgin material. The new government funding will support APCO Members and the entire packaging supply chain to develop new solutions to boost uptake of recycled plastic, including expanding infrastructure to process more recovered plastic into usable material for new products and packaging.
One of the initiatives APCO is preparing to launch that will play an important role in increasing demand for recycled content is the Recycled Materials Pledge. It aims to drive greater uptake of recycled content in packaging by members and signal demand for recycled packaging materials to help drive investment in reprocessing.
Modelled on similar programs in Europe, the Pledge Program is for APCO members to publicly pledge the volumes of specific materials that they will transition from virgin materials to recycled materials by 2025. They will have the opportunity to select the relevant packaging materials, make detailed commitments to the recycled material market, and pledge their dedication to achieve these specific 2025 National Packaging recycled material targets.
Others who welcomed the new funding include ALDI, Coles, Woolworths, The Arnott’s Group and Unilever.
“We’re committed to working in partnership with industry stakeholders, government and our business partners to find sustainable solutions to create a circular economy for plastics and are encouraged by this government investment that will lead to increased uptake of recycled materials in product packaging across the Australian retail industry,” ALDI Australia director Corporate Responsibility Daniel Baker said.
Arnott’s Group chief transformation officer, Simon Lowden, said that Arnott’s remain committed to achieving the 2025 National Packaging Targets and advancing an ambitious agenda that brings us closer to a circular economy for packaging.
“As a company, we’ve committed to ensuring that our packaging has at least 50 per cent average recycled content by 2025, so welcome the government’s efforts in this space,” he said.
Meanwhile, Coles chief sustainability, property and export officer, Thinus Keevé, said: “We know that packaging, including plastic packaging, plays a key role in protecting products during transport, extending product life, keeping food safe and reducing food waste. Initiatives that drive the use of recycled plastic material in Australia will help close the loop on plastic packaging and support the transition to a circular economy.”
Unilever head of Sustainable Business & Communications – ANZ, Brooke Sprott, said Unilever uses 1,200 tonnes of recycled plastic in their home, beauty and personal care bottles each year and are looking to use recycled plastic into more of their packaging. But there is a gap in the availability of traceable, food-grade recycled plastic in Australia.
“The government’s announcement will help close this gap by accelerating Australia’s transition towards a circular economy, increasing capacity for hard-to-recycle materials like soft plastics, which can be collected and processed into a traceable stream of food-grade recycled plastic, and then re-used into packaging for our brands and many others,” Sprott said.
Woolworths 360 head of Circular Packaging Solutions, Adrian Cullen, said they are focused on growing greener across their range and aim to remove plastic from their packaging wherever possible.
“Where plastic can’t be taken out of packaging altogether, we’re committed to reducing its environmental footprint by increasing our use of recycled plastic,” Cullen said.
“We’ve pledged to use an average of 60 per cent recycled content in our own brand packaging by the end of 2025, and we’re also working to support our suppliers’ progress towards APCO’s National Packaging Targets to help cut virgin plastic going into our customers’ shopping baskets. Large scale investments in Australia’s recycling capability, such as this additional funding from the federal government, are vital in our collective pursuit of a better tomorrow.”
In addition, APCO is the lead organisation in the ANZPAC Plastics Pact. This additional funding will help to support ANZPAC Members to continue to develop innovative approaches to solving the plastic waste issue.
The new funding comes on the heels of a $50 million investment into CSIRO’s Ending Plastic Waste Mission which will involve industry, government and CSIRO in developments to change the way Australia makes, uses, recycles and disposes of plastics.