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All wrapped up in packaging?


191259946_2af67f29a3_oThe Australian Packaging Covenant (APC) aims to change the culture of business to design more sustainable packaging, increase recycling rates and reduce packaging litter. Lizzie Senior from the APC offers practical advice on how to reduce the environmental impact of the packaging of the products you buy.

In 2013, over 4.5 million tonnes of packaging was used in Australia and nearly 65% of that packaging was recycled. Product packaging is often necessary to prevent damage and keep products fresh. It’s used to provide important information about the product and its safe use.

As users of packaging, there are steps we can all take to ensure we support the organisations that are making an effort to create more sustainable packaging.

So what is sustainable packaging?

Sustainable packaging goes beyond its primary role in delivering goods in a good condition to be resource-efficient, use low-impact materials, and be reusable or recyclable at the end of its life.

Shopping tips for better packaging

When you’re shopping there are some practical ways you can look at packaging to reduce your environmental footprint:

  1. Does the packaging look excessive to protect the product?
  2. Does the packaging indicate it is made from recycled materials?
  3. Does the packaging use renewable materials?
  4. Is there some way you could reuse this packaging for another purpose once finished with it? Is it recyclable? Even if the item can’t be recycled at home (look for the Mobius Loop), there might be an alternative collection point. Use to check.

The Australian Packaging Covenant

You can also find out what brands and packaging manufacturers are doing to make their packaging better for the environment by looking into their involvement with the Australian Packaging Covenant (APC).

The Australian Packaging Covenant is a national agreement between government, industry and community groups to make packaging more sustainable, increase recycling and reduce litter. The APC ensures that industry plays a leading role in managing the environmental impact of its packaging. The APC has more than 900 signatories, of whom 791 are brand owners, representing up to 80 per cent of the total retail trade in Australia.

When an organisation signs to the Covenant they develop a publicly available action plan that sets out what they propose to do to contribute to the APC’s objectives, including goals to employ better design, material use and product stewardship. Each signatory then submits an annual report detailing the progress made towards completing the actions outlined in the plan.

You can find out what companies are signatories and read their action plans and annual reports on the APC website.

Each year, the APC also recognises its top performing signatories – those companies who performed above and beyond their obligations under the Covenant, and are setting an example for the retail sector. The 2014 award winners will be announced in July this year.

Find out who were the top performing signatories last year

How to let brands know

If you want to provide feedback to a brand about their packaging you can contact them directly, or you can use the APC Packaging Line.

You can contact the Packaging Line with an enquiry about the design and use of packaging materials, or a complaint about problematic packaging. For more information visit

What else is happening?

The Australian Packaging Covenant also provides funding to signatories to develop and complete projects that contribute towards increasing recycling and reducing litter. Projects funded by the APC include the recycling of flexible plastics through Coles supermarkets, installation of public place recycling bins in Westfield shopping centres, expanding polystyrene recycling by providing better transport infrastructure, as well as a range of litter education campaigns.

The APC is focused on achieving a 70% recycling rate for packaging by July 2015. While we’re getting close, your support of businesses that are committed to packaging sustainability – and making sure you dispose of packaging correctly – is an important part of that vision become a reality.

Image credits: calonda cc

One Response to All wrapped up in packaging?

  1. Qinnie Wang May 22, 2014 at 3:22 pm #

    This is great! I always re-use packaging materials wherever I can. I wish every business considers environmental impact when they design their packaging.

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