Author: Brad Gray
What does it take to make pet food with zero waste? What changes can be made to bottles to use 5,000 tonnes less glass? Which winemaker is using 100% recycled and 100% recyclable packaging?
Every year consumers use hundreds of millions of packaged products made right here in Australia. The production, use and disposal of this packaging have environmental impacts. The Australian Packaging Covenant is an agreement between government, industry and community groups that aims to find and fund solutions to address these packaging sustainability issues.
Put on your hard-hats and high-vis vest and join us for a special National Recycling Week tour of the factories of some of the Australian Packaging Covenant’s 2015 High Performers. Through a variety of staff and customer engagement, infrastructure and innovation initiatives these high performers have made changes that will inspire and amaze.
O-I Australia produces more than 500 million bottles a year and is one of the largest glass manufacturers in the country. Many of your favourite juices, beers, sauces and pickles are made by O-I. Glass is highly recyclable and O-I make the most of this by using more than 250,000 tonnes of used glass, collected though the recycling stream, to create new bottles and jars. In 2014 they made design changes to some of their bottles to make them lighter and which resulted in nearly 5,900 tonnes less glass being used.
Waste can happen all along the supply chain so O-I has developed a Returnable Packaging Program for their customers. The program uses the existing distribution network to collect and return for reuse items like pallets, dividers and top-frames. This is a great example of a manufacturer making it easy for customers to do the right thing.
Pernod Ricard create some of Australia’s best-selling wines, including Jacob’s Creek. In 2012 the business got serious about waste and began to make recycling and waste reduction core to their workplace culture. To do this, they introduced a ‘Sustainability Packaging Toolkit’ to the induction and training of all new operational staff and now publish a monthly bulletin, to highlight teams that have brought sustainability into their workplace culture.
Within just two years, Pernod Ricard Winemakers Australia have developed all of their packaging material to be 100% recycled content and 100% recyclable. They have also reduced their waste to landfill by 70% and sent just 32.41 tonnes of waste was sent to landfill in 2014. We’ll drink to that!
Unilever Australia makes products that most Australians use every day, from laundry soap and deodorant, to ice cream and tea. In Australia, Unilever now recycle 87% of their total waste and they’re taking action to consider the impact of packaging, before it even hits the shelves. All 12.3 million Dove bars are now packaged in recycled or certified sustainably sourced cardboard.
Reducing resource use is a step up the waste reduction hierarchy from recycling and Unilever has been making changes in this area too. By redesigning the pack and removing the aluminium lining in their Green Tea range they save 28 tonnes of foil laminate packaging a year. Similarly, by creating shorter ice cream sticks they have reduced the need to use 16 tonnes of wood a year.
Mars International, producers of chocolate and pet food, has a global goal of achieving zero waste to landfill across their manufacturing facilities by the end of 2015 and two of their Australian sites have already achieved that goal. So, how did they do it?
Overall Mars Petcare reduced the waste sent to landfill from 4,600 tonnes a year to 400 and their Wodonga site sent zero waste to landfill in 2015. They achieved this remarkable feat by installing a closed loop organic composter to turn food waste into organic compost, they work with a local waste company to turn non-recyclable waste into bio-fuel, and significantly they increased employee engagement and education on waste and recycling initiatives enabling change to be driven across the organisation.
These are just four of the Australian Packaging Covenant’s High Performers. There are many other nominees and winners who are also achieving positive results in terms of waste reduction and recycling increases.
How does your workplace compare? Do you have collections in places for simple items like paper, printer cartridges and mobile phones? Are staff aware of the existing systems and are they encouraged to get involved in the development of new programs? Is there new infrastructure that can address a particular waste issue?
Planet Ark’s National Recycling Week is a great opportunity for you to stop and examine your waste and recycling practices and to be inspired by others.
Brad was Planet Ark's Head of Campaigns for 10 years. He trained and worked as a history and geography teacher before moving into the health education sector for 14 years. With a strong passion for human environments, Brad started with Planet Ark in 2007 as Recycling Programs Manager.