“Their business will be placed on our leader board to show how many SUP bottles they’re diverting from landfill and how many of their staff sign up to join our mission throughout the month.”
Gumtree spokesperson Eleni Gavalas said it’s an important move for the resale platform.
“For over 14 years, we have helped Aussies trade on Gumtree and embrace sustainable living by giving many items the chance of a new life. Our pledge to support
Zero Co marks a step further in our ongoing commitment to encourage Australians to share more and waste less,” she said.
Pushing forward on 2025 National Packaging Targets
But efforts to abolish single-use plastics aren’t just confined to the month of July. A national effort to reduce packaging waste and improve recycling is gaining momentum. Last month, NSW announced that lightweight plastic bags, disposable plastic straws and cutlery, plastic cotton buds and microbeads will be banned from next year, as part of state government efforts to reduce plastic litter by 30 per cent by 2025.
Soon after, WA announced it would go a step further, fast-tracking its Plan for Plastics by four years with single-use plastics to be phased out by the end of the year.
Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) chief executive Brooke Donnelly praised state and territory governments for taking decisive action on the single-use plastics issue.
“The good news is that many businesses in the FMCG and retail spaces are already working hard towards achieving the 2025 National Packaging Targets, including the target to phase out problematic and unnecessary single-use plastics packaging,” she said.
“Indeed, Australia’s three biggest supermarkets, Woolworths, Coles and Aldi are all committed to meeting the 2025 targets and have delivered strong progress to date.”
The 2025 targets, set out in 2018, state that all packaging made, used and sold in Australia, should be reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging by 2025, 70 per cent of plastic packaging should be recycled or composted, packaging should include 50 per cent recycled content and unnecessary single-use plastics packaging should be phased out.
Businesses are required to review their packaging and take action to remove any single-use packaging, by either eliminating, redesigning, replacing or innovating to introduce new solutions.
“Single-use plastics are fundamentally a packaging design flaw and phasing them out is an opportunity for businesses to assess their packaging at the design phase and ask the question – do we really need each element of packaging? Reducing, or entirely avoiding, the use of packaging is the most powerful thing we can do to minimise its impact on the environment,” Donnelly said.
Where packaging is unavoidable, Donnelly suggests businesses look to alternative materials with better environmental outcomes.
“The single-use plastics targeted for phase out are problematic because we can’t recycle them and they pose a significant risk to our environment. Businesses must look for sustainable alternatives in the form of packaging that is easily recoverable and can go on to have another life,” she said.
“Moreover, to truly close the loop on recycling, and ensure materials are used again, businesses should look to use packaging made from recycled content.”
Retailers advance recycling
Many retailers have already successfully started phasing out single-use plastics from their packaging. Officeworks successfully phased out all polystyrene packaging from its home branded furniture and shredders.
Recycling company Terracycle is working with many FMCG and retail brands to introduce recycling and refill programs including L’Occitane, L’or Espresso, Mecca, David Jones and Royal Canin.
L’or Espresso introduced an in-store recycling program for all brands of coffee capsules at Woolworths, which has seen nearly 2 million L’OR, Moccona & illy coffee capsules collected since inception; Rip Curl introduced Australia’s first wetsuit take back recycling program; and the Royal Canin Recycling Program allows consumers to send their empty pet food packaging to be recycled for free.
Jean Bailliard, general manager of TerraCycle ANZ believes consumers are more conscious of their lifestyle, consumption habits and waste generation as a result of the pandemic.
“I think Covid was a big eye opener for a lot of consumers that had to stay at home … they became more aware of the waste from municipal recycling,” he said.
The brand’s partnership with Mecca allows consumers to return any brand of cosmetic, haircare or skincare packaging at stores to be sorted, processed, and transformed into something new. Since launching the service at its stores across Australia and New Zealand in late April, 600kg of empty beauty waste has been returned.
“Before launching recycling stations in all our stores nationwide across Australia and New Zealand, we trialed the program for 14 months across five stores,” Stephanie Luelf, head of corporate affairs and sustainability, Mecca Brands, told Inside Retail.
“During this trial, we collected an astonishing 1,024kg of beauty waste, diverting 10,240 empty beauty containers from landfill, giving us the confidence to roll the initiative to all of our stores. We recognise that our customers are concerned about their impact on the environment and have received an immensely positive response to the program.”
Since launching the service at its stores across Australia and New Zealand in late April, 600kg of empty beauty waste has been returned. Luelf said the retailer is reviewing all in-store packaging options for customers to find more sustainable alternatives and is looking at potentially expanding its refill selection.
Bailliard said often these cosmetic products can present challenges when it comes to traditional recycling methods.
“Typically these products are not recyclable through curbside recycling because they are either too small or too complex, and the value of the material is not high enough,” he said.
“It’s our belief that everything can be recycled. It’s a matter of whether there is an appetite to pay for the collection and recycling. For traditional waste management companies, it’s just not worth it for them because they will have to manually separate [each element].”
Next year, Terracycle’s partnership with supermarket giant Woolworths will see the introduction of zero-waste shopping platform Loop in Australia. The refill program covers a wide range of commonly used products including beverages, sauces, shampoo, washing detergent and toothpaste.
Bailliard expects more programs will be funded by brands and that private companies will fill the gaps where the government is unable to offer recycling solutions.
“We are asking brands to take ownership of their waste and recycling, and therefore fill that economic gap,” he said.
“They have to do it, so why not do it earlier, especially if competitors are offering a solution?”