November 4, 2020
How many pieces of packaging do you use every day? From this morning’s cereal box to the relaxing bottle of wine you might have with your dinner, there’s no doubt packaging has become a mainstay of modern life.
But what about the environmental impacts of our packaging addiction? Some types of packaging are better for our planet than others. Here’s how industry, workplaces, schools and individuals can all do their bit to create a future in balance with nature.
Many industries are already making the shift from our current ‘take-make-dispose’ linear economic model to a ‘circular economy’. In this new model, greater focus is placed on the end of life of products and their packaging, so they are designed with sustainability in mind. This will ensure we reduce our reliance of virgin materials, keep valuable resources in circulation for as long as possible and dispose of materials in the most responsible way possible once they have reached their end of life.
In Australia, national sustainability targets for packaging have already been set. By the end of 2025:
Coca-Cola Australia is a great example of a company that is well on the way to hitting those targets. Last year, Coca-Cola Australia made the switch to 100% recycled plastic for all beverages under one litre, and recently it announced 100% recycled plastic will be extended to all frozen cups and lids. As a result of these initiatives, by the end of 2021 Coca-Cola Australia will have reduced its use of virgin plastic by over 40,000 tonnes since 2017. As a global leader in the beverage industry, this not only sets an exciting precedent for its industry, but it will also support the recycling industry by invigorating the market for recycled plastic.
Businesses, workplaces, schools and other organisations can all make a difference by improving how they manage their packaging waste and being more careful about what they buy. Here are some tips for reducing your packaging-related environmental impact:
For individuals and households wanting to improve their environmental impact, our best suggestion is to follow the waste hierarchy whenever possible: reduce, reuse and then recycle.
You can reduce your packaging consumption by avoiding single-use items like plastics bags and coffee cups, bringing reusable packaging such as water bottles with you and buying in bulk. Reusing packaging like plastic containers and glass jars will extend their life and get the most of out the materials and resources that went into making them.
When you do need to dispose of packaging, check for the Australasian Recycling Label (ARL) when you’re at the bin. It’s the only evidence-based label in Australia that tells you exactly how to dispose of each piece of the packaging. If it doesn’t have the ARL on it, you can always check what can and can’t be recycled in your local area by visiting RecyclingNearYou. This ensures we recycle right and reduce contamination in the recycling bin, which means we are less likely to lose valuable resources to landfill.
Another way to ensure you get the most out of the packaging you use is to take your eligible empty containers to a Container Deposit Scheme. Due to the clean waste stream, these containers are able to be turned into high-quality recycled materials. For the few areas in Australia where beverage cartons are not accepted in kerbside recycling, this offers those residents an opportunity to recycle their eligible cartons. These schemes are now active in all Australian states and territories, with Victoria and Tasmania soon to come.
Learn more about packaging recycling here.