Page 14 - Food & Drink March 2020
P. 14

Heading in
a circular
Responsible sourcing of food, packaging, food waste and recycling continues to grow. Australian Food & Grocery Council sustainability director Barry Cosier explains why developing a circular economy is the best way forward.
FOR the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC), the food and grocery sector’s greatest contribution to Australia’s waste management is best met through the pursuit of a circular economy, by reducing food waste and increasing packaging recycling within the municipal solid waste sector.
To achieve sustainability goals and develop a circular economy, there are many issues that need to be addressed as well as opportunities be embraced.
If food waste was a country, the unconsumed annual area would be about the size of China. This would make food waste the third largest carbon emitter behind China and the US.
In Australia, food manufacturers understand the positive environmental impact of reducing food waste and have focussed on this for many years. Currently, 95 per cent of food waste from the food manufacturing sector is diverted from landfill to higher order uses such as food rescue, animal feed, application to land and composting. This is driving significant circular economy outcomes.
However, a mere five per
cent of household food waste
is currently being diverted
from landfill, presenting an opportunity to embrace circular economy principles at a grass roots level. To increase diversion
of household food organics from landfill, the AFGC advocates government investment
in organics processing infrastructure supported by household and commercial collections. This would allow brand owners to transition
to compostable packaging once there is nationwide access to food organics collection and processing.
There is no doubt community expectations in relation to sustainability have evolved and, in regard to the food and grocery manufacturing sector, packaging sustainability is a central issue. That is why the sector has committed to increase the recycling rate and recyclability of product packaging through the 2025 National Packaging Targets.
While much focus has been on the export waste bans announced by the Council of Australian Governments last year, as well as the need for greater investment in the waste processing sector, these are only part of the solution.
In terms of the food, beverage and grocery manufacturing sector, the obvious area where the concept of the circular economy can be applied is in regards to packaging, especially plastic packaging. And in Australia, the sector is collaborating to make it happen.
However, while the sector is
working hard to embrace the changes that support a circular economy, appropriate timeframes and innovation schemes should be established to help businesses transition.
2025 NATIONAL PACKAGING TARGETS The 2025 National Packaging Targets are supported by the AFGC and have been widely embraced by the sector, which is working hard to meet the targets.
Through membership with the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO), companies are collaborating to reduce the impact of incorrectly disposed of packaging.
APCO’s membership extends across organisational size and industry and enables “the sharing of best practice resources and strategies to improve packaging design, optimise waste management processes and reduce business costs relating to packaging waste”.
In addition, food and grocery manufacturers are investing in research and development to innovate packaging design; increasing the demand for packaging that includes recycled content; and rolling out the Australasian Recyclability Label (ARL) on packaging to better guide consumers on what can be recycled.
14 | Food&Drink business | March 2020 |

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