Australia is in the midst of a global waste pandemic and manufacturers need to take action.
The packaging industry is currently worth USD$900 billion and forecast to grow at an annual rate of 3.1% between now and 2022, as our consumption continues to soar.
In 2018, the Australia Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) outlined targets to create a more sustainable approach to the way we manage packaging, and lay the foundations for a circular economy.
By 2025 Australia needs to be:
- creating 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging
- recycling or composting 70% of plastic packaging
- including 30% recycled content in packaging
- phasing out single-use plastics packaging
Need further incentive for creating more sustainable solutions?
Simply look to consumer behaviour.
Research shows that natural-looking packaging can capture a shopper’s attention faster and hold it for 1.5 times as long as standard packaging. It can also help your product stand out on the shelves – both of which can ultimately lead to more sales.
In addition, people are expecting more from products. How they feel in the hand has become increasingly important.
The redesign of packaging is also increasing profitability for companies. Unilever’s Sustainable Living brands, which focus on reducing their environmental footprint, grew 46% faster than the rest of its business in 2017-18.
Examples of brands moving to sustainable packaging
One brand giant making the right moves is Nestlé. The world’s largest packaged food company has pledged to make 100% of its packaging recyclable or reusable by 2025 and has formed the Nestlé Institute of Packaging Sciences to develop new solutions for its 2,000 or so brands.
The global manufacturer began to withdraw all single-use plastic straws from its products this year, and has developed paper containers for its chocolate milk, Nesquik. It’s also signed up to redcycle, an Australasian program that helps consumers recycle soft plastic.
#2 CERES ORGANIC
On a smaller scale, Ceres Organic is reducing the use of single-use plastic with cereal packaging that can be home composted.
The packets are made with cellulose from trees and, innovatively, still have the properties to keep food fresh.
#3 AUSTRALIA POST
Australia Post has also begun its journey towards more sustainable packaging with a recycled plastic satchel developed in partnership with Country Road. CEO Christine Holgate says, “One of the things about doing things like recycled packaging is for the people that work in your business. They want to work for organisations which have strong values.”
And something different…
A worldwide initiative, Loop, has also taken the global packaging industry by storm. By partnering with big manufacturers such as PepsiCo and Procter & Gamble, it’s developed reusable packaging that consumers can use time and time again.
How to get started with sustainable packaging
Follow these actionable steps:
1. Seek advice from the experts.
- APCO helps businesses develop packaging solutions that meet the 2025 targets. Through membership, organisations have access to a sustainability framework and resources that include a nationwide labelling scheme. The scheme assesses what will happen to a product at end-of-life and provides on-pack labelling that informs customers how they can recycle their waste.
- The Australian Institute of Packaging can also help businesses, and offers a number of courses including “Introduction to Sustainable Packaging Design”, “Lifecycle Assessment Tools for Sustainable Packaging Design” and “Tools to meet the 2025 National Packaging Targets”.
2. Get familiar with systems (or lifecycle) thinking and how it applies to sustainable packaging.
- Economy: The cost of packaging needs to be covered by the consumer, incur a fraction of the product’s cost, and be profitable for the manufacturer.
- Society: Packaging needs to meet compliance standards and consumer needs, e.g.: be easy to use, transport home, store, empty and sort.
- Environment: The product’s overall footprint needs to be minimal and follow the model of a circular economy.
3. Ask yourself some key questions.
- What’s the purpose of my packaging? And can it be improved, reduced, reused or recycled without jeopardising the lifespan of my product?
- What’s my supply chain doing? And what partnerships can I create to foster research and innovation?
4. Set targets.
Make sure your targets complement the 2025 national targets and build these into your business strategy. Do this is tandem with your supply chain.
5. Develop a communications strategy.
Share your research and the reasons why you still use packaging or have chosen particular materials.
The global drive for sustainability offers huge opportunities for our industry. As you assess your packaging’s performance, you have the potential to radically improve how it functions to better meet consumers’ growing needs. And, by approaching what you do in new and innovative ways, you can develop packaging solutions that positively impact society and the environment.
Looking for insights and tailored information for Australian makers & movers, domestically and on the global stage? You’ll find it all here. Connect with us now!
Image credits: iStock/ South_agency (main); iStock / nicoletaionescu (2nd); iStock / MicroStockHub (3rd)