There is no doubt that with the recent issues around our recycling system, that we have started to question the issue of packaging a lot more. It should be noted that much of what can go into the kerbside recycling bin is packaging – largely from the kitchen, bathroom and laundry.
Packaging for food, in particular, uses a combination of different types of plastics, paper and cardboard, glass and metals such as steel and aluminium. While almost all of these materials can be recycled, the knowledge that much of it has not been recycled, but baled and shipped overseas or stored in warehouses has profoundly disappointed those who have gone to the trouble of putting their recycling into the correct bin.
The recently created 2025 National Packaging Targets should help get us back on track with a sustainable pathway for new packaging options. The 2025 target is for 100% of all packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable, 70% of plastic packaging to be recycled or composted, an average of 30% of recycled content to be included in packaging and the phasing out of problematic single use plastic packaging. If we are to have an effective circular economy model in Australia then these targets will need to be met.
Most importantly, we know that the community is keen to see change. Where once the multiple layers of packaging around food products such as biscuits was seen as a sign of a premium product, today it is met by annoyance and frustration at the unnecessary amount of packaging and the confusion about what can and cannot be recycled.
The challenge for packaging producers will be in redesigning packaging to meet expectations of avoidance, reduction, reuse, recovery and recycling in packaging. This means more thought being put into what happens at the end of the life/usefulness of the packaging material. We also need to have a rethink about packaging – not as a waste but as a resource.
At the same time we still need to remember that packaging plays a critical role in preserving and safeguarding products – food in particular – as we don’t want to increase food waste while reducing packaging waste.
Be in no doubt that the packaging revolution has already started with more options for BYO packaging – thereby promoting avoidance, greater use of recycled material in packaging – avoiding the use of virgin materials and the development of more home compostable plastics making it easy for disposal at home. Vive la Revolution!