In this second instalment of Toy & Hobby Retailer's chat with former deputy director of the Boomerang Alliance, Jayne Paramor details some initiatives that are being implemented overseas which can help to reduce plastic packagaing waste as well as making recycled products or those with recycled packaging more desirable for consumers to buy.
Missed out on part one? You can read it here.
Is the onus on big business to create demand for recyclable materials?
Well we're seeing it in Europe at the moment that the European Union is talking about putting punitive measures on virgin plastics and putting subsidies in against recycled content. To make the price point of products that are used with packaging that is made from recycled content, cheaper.
So it becomes more desirable, more appropriate for people when they're doing their shopping as price is a major motivator for shoppers these days. If we've got those price signals in place that push the consumer towards making the purchase decision where the recycled content is the primary component of the packaging then we end up driving consumers in the right direction, through the use of those price signals.
So ultimately, they're the sorts of mechanisms that we think are good for driving this shift in the way we actually look at the materials that we're using.
Any similar conversations happening in Australia?
No. Not at the moment.
We saw the commonwealth government (pre-2019 federal election) come out with recycling targets in September and they were around making 100 per cent packaging recyclable, compostable or reusable by 2025. 70 per cent would go through the process and 30 per cent mandated recycled content by 2025.
The amount of plastic that's coming through the system at the moment, those numbers don't add up in order to actually address the problem. The recycled content requirements are too low to meet up with the volume of plastic that's already being used in the marketplace and the vast majority of plastic is already recyclable, so to make a comment that, 'we want 100 per cent of it to be recyclable by 2025,' is a bit of an unambitious target when most of it already is.
There are good models happening overseas. There's an organisation that just recently launched called Loop, over in the US, and the idea is they're actually looking at eliminating plastic packaging altogether, on certain lines of products and creating reusable packaging and using reverse engineering on the supply chain to actually provide collection services.
So people like Haagen Daas ice cream, rather than having ice cream in a liquid paper-board tub, it will come in a metal tub, when you finish that metal tub, you take it back to the supermarket or they provide a collection service through the waste collection services with councils. It then gets sent back to the point of manufacture and is refilled and is put back on the shelf.
So it's using more durable materials, so they're looking at thermal packaging that is made out of metal so it will keep the material inside – the ice cream and things inside it – cold, but it will also have a much longer shelf life in terms of being able to reuse it again and again and not have packaging going into the waste stream.
There are initiatives out there, we just don't seem to be moving very fast down the path with it here in Australia at the moment.
Interestingly, the National Waste Policy which has been under review – it was under its 10 year review at the end of last year – those targets that the government came out with in September don't even feature in the new National Waste Strategy. So there's this big disconnect in that they're coming out and making these announcements, but they're not actually even implementing it in their national policy.
There's also this very odd deflection between commonwealth and state in that waste and things like that are actually handled at the state level, so the commonwealth government just defers to the states on these things which is why some states have plastic bag bans and some don't. Some states have container deposit schemes and some don't, because all those things are handled at the state level, rather than having a national objective of trying to address these problems and letting the states implement according to their own preferences.
So there's no real national approach to it which is what we need. We need the commonwealth government to set the agenda really and give the states the freedom to implement the way that suits them best.
Would a national agenda help businesses take steps in the right direction?
I think there would be a big incentive to create a bit of a level playing field for businesses across the country so that they know they're doing the same thing in every state – it doesn't matter if they apply one business model across the board – the big multi-nationals can afford to do that, the smaller manufacturers and producers have a harder time doing that sort of stuff because they don't have that blanket capacity to make unilateral decisions across the business, they may have to adjust to local conditions and that can actually add to the cost for them and add to the administrative burden in a lot of ways as well.
If we have a national policy that would take a lot of that administrative burden away from business and it would make it a lot easier for them to deal with.
What are your thoughts on this? Leave your comments below.