The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) works with government and businesses to reduce the environmental impact of packaging in Australia.
A co-regulatory arrangement establishes APCO and the obligations for businesses to manage their packaging waste in a sustainable way. It embodies an industry-driven product stewardship approach.
By becoming a member of APCO, businesses receive guidance on how to improve the sustainability of their packaging. They also agree to shared commitments and responsibilities to reduce the environmental impact of their packaging.
APCO has over 2,000 Australian business members from across the packaging supply chain, ranging from large multinational corporations to small local businesses.
Australia’s 2025 National Packaging Targets
In 2018 Australia established the ambitious 2025 National Packaging Targets. The Targets create a new sustainable pathway for the way we manage packaging in Australia.
The four Targets are:
- 100% of packaging being reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025
- 70% of plastic packaging being recycled or composted by 2025
- 50% of average recycled content included in packaging by 2025
- The phase out of problematic and unnecessary single-use plastic packaging by 2025.
The National Packaging Targets apply to all packaging that is made, used and sold in Australia. APCO is charged with delivering the industry-led targets.
Good progress is being made against the Targets. Yet, more work is required to ensure they are delivered in full by 2025. Targets requiring attention by industry include:
- increasing the volume of plastic packaging being recycled
- increasing the amount of recycled content in plastic packaging.
To drive further industry action APCO has set a new recycled content target for plastic packaging (20%). APCO has also set material specific targets for recycled content in plastic packaging made from:
- polyethylene (PET) (30%)
- high-density polyethylene (HDPE) (20%)
- polypropylene (PP) (20%).
Governments and APCO are working together to actively track and review industry’s progress towards the Targets.
ANZPAC Plastics Pact
The Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Island Countries Plastics Pact (ANZPAC) is an APCO-led industry program that brings together 100 leading businesses, government and supply chain stakeholders to work collaboratively across the Oceania region to reduce and manage plastic packaging over the next three years. The Australian Government joined ANZPAC as a supporting member in September 2021. ANZPAC is the first Plastics Pact in the Oceania region, second regional Pact and the 11th Plastics Pact to join the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s (EMF) global Plastics Pact Network. The EMF Plastics Pact Network is a globally aligned response to plastic waste and pollution that enables knowledge sharing and co-ordinated action.
More information about ANZPAC is available at ANZPAC Plastics Pact.
Reforming packaging regulation
In 2021, an independent legislative review examining the effectiveness of Australia’s national co-regulatory framework for packaging, established under the National Environment Protection (Used Packaging Materials) Measure 2011, was completed.
The review was the first comprehensive statutory review of the co-regulatory framework since it was established in 1999.
A report for the review was provided to the Department on 6 September 2021 and included nine recommendations for reforming the framework.
At the 21 October 2022 Environment Ministers’ Meeting, ministers agreed to reform the regulation of packaging by 2025, to ensure that all packaging available in Australia is designed to be recovered, reused, recycled and reprocessed safely in line with circular economy principles.
Reforming the regulation of packaging in Australia presents a significant opportunity to improve the way our packaging is designed and accelerate material circularity for the 6.3 million tonnes of packaging placed on the Australian market every year.
In December 2022, the Australian Government released its response to the review.
While reforms are taking place, it is important that businesses continue to work towards improving packaging sustainability by maintaining their commitments under the current co-regulatory arrangement.
The Government is working with state and territory governments and key industry organisations to develop and rollout a targeted communications and engagement strategy to improve brand owners’ understanding of their ongoing obligations under the current co-regulatory arrangement while the reform work progresses.
A copy of the report for the review is available for download.
To encourage participation in the Covenant and ensure a level playing field for Covenant Signatories, businesses in the packaging supply chain may also be contacted by APCO as part of their annual Brand Owner Audit.
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