Wednesday 21 April – ACBC Victoria & CSIRO joined together to discuss the ins and outs of global plastics – its production, recycling and usage management culminating in discussion around steps towards ending worldwide plastic waste.
The highly professional panel of researchers and business leaders included CSIRO moderator Dr Deborah Lau (Ending Plastic Waste Lead) alongside panellists Sarah King, Senior Research Consultant for Circular Economy, CSIRO; Peter Brisbane, Government Partnership Manager, Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) and Mark Grogan, Co-founder, MGX Enterprise
Panellists focused on merging government policy with private sector innovation to achieve future-proof outcomes for the environment that simultaneously supported economic growth.
Sarah (CSIRO) introduced the concept of a circular economy as something that can bring an estimated 150,000 new jobs and $20 billion growth to national GDP if instituted into Australia’s manufacturing landscape.
Peter (APCO) identified that 42% of Australian plastic waste comes from packaging and presented a number of mediating initiatives APCO was taking including working with global companies and within global supply chains to achieve a consistent set of packaging requirements around the world.
Mark (MGX Enterprise) focussed on traceability and accountability as key facets of a successful circular economy as “it’s not a circular economy unless it’s measured”.
To view APCO’s Considerations for Compositable Plastic Packaging Report, click here
Watch a recording of this event on the ACBC Insights Centre here.
Some key takeaways from the event:
Dr Deborah Lau – CSIRO: Plastic waste issue scanning and CSIRO’s work in the sector
- Estimation data shows there were 380 million tonnes of plastics produced in 2020, the volumes of plastics will be three or four times that of 2020 within three decades.
- Plastic waste cause dramatically negative effects in both marine and climate crisis.
- Plastic waste leakage needs holistic system changes from the reduction of consumption, substitution, design, collection methods development, mechanical recycling, plastic-to plastic conversion development, disposal and reduction of waste exports.
- With the ending plastic waste mission, CSIRO works in two streams: knowledge and information systems, and biochemical and physical materials.
- CSIRO is dedicated to large-scale, scientific and collaborative research, focusing on issues that matter the most, for human beings’ quality of life, for the economy and for the environment.
Sarah King – CSIRO: Concept of a circular economy
- Circular economy means retaining materials in our production economy instead of disposal to landfill or incineration.
- Some organisations actively conduct circular economy business like choosing leasing options or selling services rather than physical products.
- Producer responsibility has been extended. For example, some companies are responsible for product at the end of its life.
- Circular economy is tying together the financial pillar, the economic development pillar and the environmental pillar.
- If introduced, a 4.5 trillion-dollar opportunity, 1500 thousand new jobs and 23 billion dollar opportunity for GDP will be created by 2030.
Peter Brisbane – Australia Covenant Packaging Organisation (APCO)
- 42% plastic waste is packaging, 50% Australia’s packaging is manufactured in Australia the other 50% is imported. In the future, Australia would have a potential manufacturing advantage on higher functionality and sophisticated materials.
- 2025 National Packaging Target will deliver a new and sustainable approach to packaging in Australia.
- To make sure upstream suppliers understand the requirement of recyclability, the Australia Covenant Packaging Organisation is working with brand owners, retailers, packaging manufacturers, pursuing target of recycling plastic waste, environmental performance of packaging, the recyclability of packaging and labelling.
Mark Grogan – MGX Enterprise
- Four key elements need to be achieved to create a truly circular economy:
- Create new models that change philosophy about how we deal with plastics. For example, how we can change the model that virgin plastics are cheaper than recycling plastic.
- Government policy needs to support new models from the top down.
- Everyone should be accountable. For example, the waste company should take the waste to the right facility.
- A holistic system process needs to be measured to be successful.
Key takeaways from panel discussion:
Sarah, what strategies you think there might be available to boost markets for the increased use of recycled plastics?
- There are two key areas – recycling infrastructure and market development.
- For the public sector and government procurement, we need successful demonstration and pilots to alleviate concerns about using recycled content rather than virgin materials.
- Harmonisation across states and jurisdictions is important. For example, regulations for defining wastes are needed.
- In the private sector, the introduction of targets and commitments signal efforts to create a future-proof industry.
Peter, what are your thoughts on progress being made on waste reduction at the source?
- Waste reduction at the source is preferable approach. We’ve got this legacy waste problem and we’ve had policy changes that resulted in it being difficult to dispose of those stockpiles.
- We have sustainable packaging guidelines including identifying improved materials that deliver the same functionality or improved functionality with lighter waste.
- We have reuse models for packaging. The core concepts are what is the interaction between customers and products and how does the packaging enhance the interaction.
- In the long term, dealing with the plastic waste will focus on business models and changing delivery methods.
Mark, what is the future of bioplastics?
- In the future we can deal with the organic waste in our own suburbs around world as many compostable plastics just need to go through an industrial process like 58 degree Celsius.
Key takeaways compiled by Qing Wang, ACBC Vic Intern