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(AUSTRALIA) ANZPAC REPORT: Major supermarket chains and multinational brands are among more than 60 organisations to sign up to a long-awaited pact to reduce plastic waste across Australia and the region #AceNewsDesk report

#AceNewsReport – May.19: The ANZPAC plastics pact aims to by 2025 drastically reduce the amount of plastic waste from Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific ending up in landfills and the ocean:

ANZPAC Plastics Pact: Major companies sign ‘radical’ deal to drastically reduce plastic waste by 2025: Australian waste explainedAustralia has been in the middle of a nationwide recycling crisis for nearly two years now, but what happens once we put rubbish in the bin still remains a mystery for many people.

‘Signatories include big brands like Coles, Woolworths, Nestle and Coca-Cola, as well as the Australian Beverages Council, the Australian Food and Grocery Council and Planet Ark’

updated Yesterday at 11:00pm

Plastic rubbish on a beach
ANZPAC aims to eliminate unnecessary packaging by 2025.(Clifton Beard/Flickr.com/CC/BY-NC/2.0)

They are pledging to reach four targets by 2025:

  • eliminating unnecessary packaging
  • making all plastic packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable
  • increasing the amount of plastic packaging collected to 25 per cent
  • increasing the amount of recycled content used to make packaging to 25 per cent

The deal has been three years in the making and follows years of crisis in the waste industry.

Brooke Donnelly from the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) said more than 800,000 tonnes of plastic waste ended up in landfill or the environment in Australia every year.

“What we’re really trying to address here is a systemic problem that says the plastics system is actually broken,” she said.

“Our take, make and dispose approach means too much plastics waste is actually ending up in landfill.”

A piece of clear plastic in mud on a riverbank.
Plastic packaging from single-use consumer products is frequently found in waterways and washed up on beaches.(ABC News: Margaret Paul)

Hundreds of thousands of tonnes of plastic waste

Anyone who has found a plastic straw on a beach or found a bottle washed up in a river knows plastic waste is a problem in Australia, and in the region.

According to figures from APCO, in 2018-19 about a million tonnes of plastic was sold in Australia, but only 18 per cent of it was recycled.

“Essentially that means 82 per cent of that 1 million tonnes went to landfill or the environment,” Ms Donnelly said.

Ms Donnelly said if no action was taken, by 2040 the volume of plastic on the market would double, and the amount of plastic entering the ocean would almost triple.

“So we really need a radical intervention,” she said.

The group’s first step will be to create a roadmap to achieve the targets.

Fruit and vegetables on styrofoam plates wrapped in plastic wrap sit on a grocery store shelf
The group also aims to make all plastic packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.(Pexels)

Ms Donnelly said some of the practical aims would be eliminating little bits of unnecessary plastics on packaging, and working out better ways to deal with the plastic that was already created.

“For example, we will manage the collection of materials and bring them back and manage the end of life, so they’re being recycled or reused or composted,” she said.

The ANZPAC pact is the first in the Pacific region to join the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s global Plastics Pact Network.

There are 10 pacts already in place across the world, with countries including the United Kingdom, South Africa and Canada already signed on, and a regional pact in place in Europe.

Plastic issues bigger than packaging

“What I’m hoping for is that this will also be a way of Australia and New Zealand being able to support the Pacific region, which has different but just as challenging issues with plastic,” she said.

Jenni Downes, a research fellow at Monash University’s Sustainable Development Institute, said in broad terms the ANZPAC pact’s regional approach was a step in the right direction.

She said the aims of the pact overlapped with Australia’s existing 2025 National Packaging Targets set up by APCO in 2018, which would help the industry meet its aims.

“A lot of this has come from the realisation of the massive marine plastic problem we have, and that a lot of that is lightweight, single-use packaging from consumer products,” she said.

“The issue of plastic is much bigger than that, but often that is what we see and what we think of when we hear plastic.

“We do have an issue with plastic packaging but sometimes we lose sight of the bigger picture.”

A woman poses for a photo in an office, which is filled with greenery, including a green wall
Jenni Downes said the pact was a step in the right direction.(Supplied)

The researcher said it was also important to ensure that a good system was established to ensure that there was a market for recycled plastic once products are collected.

“We need people to say we’re going to secure all of this plastic and turn it into new products,” she said.

“Without that, there’s no value in collecting it.”

Melbourne volunteers see plastic pollution first-hand

About a decade ago, Ross Headifen and his wife were inspired to turn their habit of collecting plastic off Port Melbourne beach into something more serious.

They got involved in an organisation called Beach Patrol that was started in 2010. It is made up of a network of volunteers in communities across Melbourne who take responsibility for cleaning up beaches, parks and other public spaces.

A man, Ross Headifen, wearing a pink button up shirt.
Ross Headifen helped start the organisation Beach Patrol, which focuses on picking up plastic from beaches and other public spaces.(Supplied: Ross Headifen)

Mr Headifen is now president of the group, which started on beaches around Port Phillip Bay but has since grown to include other suburbs.

Its membership has ballooned to include more than 4,500 volunteers.

“Beach Patrol has been able to tap into a lot of latent energy that people have because they know there’s a big problem out there and they’re not sure what they can do,” he said.

“Beach Patrol has given them the opportunity to come out for one hour a month and pick up some plastic off a beach or a street or a park, put it in the bin or recycle it.

“It gives people an outlet and makes them feel like they’re contributing something and helping solve a problem.”

In 2019, the group collected 30,000 plastic drink bottles from Melbourne’s beaches and other public spaces.

He said volunteers were constantly picking up items, including bottle tops, drinking cups, plastic film and balloons, but they had noticed a decline in the number of plastic straws over the past couple of years.

Plastic bottle floating in water in reeds in a waterway.
In 2019, the Melbourne-based volunteer group Beach Patrol collected 30,000 plastic bottles from beaches and other public spaces.(ABC News: Margaret Paul)

He welcomed news of the pact, but said he had concerns about whether there was a market for recycled plastic, and whether or not the aims were achievable within the time frame.

“It’s only four years away and even if the industry was really excited, it’s just not enough time for them to revamp their whole production process so machines can make things out of a different material and produce them in a different way,” he said. 

Mr Headfin’s involvement in the area of plastic waste, and background as an engineer, has also led him to start a company called Biogone, which produces plant-based plastic that is recyclable but can also biodegrade within a few years.

He said the main point of Beach Patrol was not about physically picking up plastic litter but helping more people understand the problem.

“The volunteers and their families and friends are talking about finding 100 plastic bottle on the beach or plastic film, and the word goes out,” he said.

#AceNewsDesk report ………Published: May.19: 2021:

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