Manufacturing News

Broader thinking on Covenant

THE National Packaging Covenant, a collaborative initiative between industry and government to reduce packaging waste, has entered a new phase, with changes to the agreement and the release of a publication from the Packaging Council of Australia (PCA) highlighting some of the new generation of packaging products.

Gavin Williams, chief executive of the PCA, notes that the revised version of the Covenant includes a series of KPIs on sustainability and environmental issues.

Williams admits to some initial concerns over the 2005 decision at the ministerial level to establish a benchmark of 65% for the recycling of used packaging.

“Everyone understands the importance of recycling, and it is useful to have a target figure,” he told Manufacturers Monthly.

“But it should not be seen as the sole issue. Generally, industry thinking has developed to encompass aspects such as raw material use, the energy required in production, and water usage. This shows the flexibility of the Covenant, which can incorporate new issues and approaches. It would be difficult for that to happen in a legislation-based regime.”

The second Covenant has about 600 signatories across the supply chain. It covers, Williams estimates, between 80 and 90% of goods on supermarket shelves, although the Covenant also affects many packaging products that do not directly reach the consumer.

As a result of the first Covenant, the current recycling rate for used packaging is about 56%. For plastics, about 30% is recycled, up from 21% in 2003.

“The message we keep hearing from packaging firms is that brand owners want sustainability in packaging. So in that sense packaging firms are responding to market demands. It means that sustainability issues are now locked into the industry picture — and many firms have found that it improves their own bottom line as well,” Williams said.

Projects

The National Packaging Covenant will soon announce the projects to receive financial assistance in the second round of funding for 2007/08. A total of up to $6m is available each year, half from industry contributions and half from state governments.

Ed Cordner, CEO of the National Packaging Covenant says the focus is again on assisting projects which will divert substantial tonnes of packaging from landfill into new uses.

“We always look for innovative proposals, and projects diverting over 5,000t from landfill are given priority.”

There are now 50 projects with Covenant funding under way, with a total value of $47m and the capability to divert an additional 500,000t of discarded packaging per annum from landfill.

The PCA publication Australian Packaging: Real Examples of Change and Innovation provides a series of examples of innovative packaging.

One of the most interesting is the Brita Fill & Go bottle, a 700ml sports bottle with an activated carbon filter inside, enabling users to fill from any tap.

The filter, which removes any unpleasant tastes and odours while retaining fluoride, processes up to 57L, or 80 refills, effectively reducing the amount of water bottles that would otherwise go to landfill.

“The technology was meant for industrial uses but it works very well for a consumer product,” said Mike Alborough, marketing manager of Brita. “They see it as a cost-effective option.”

An example of redesign for better resource use is Golden Circle’s 440g steel food can. The thickness of the can was reduced from 0.19mm to 0.16mm, providing an estimated saving of 125t by late 2007. The steel is entirely recyclable.

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