Environmental Responsibility

 

The Australian Beverages Council supports the sustainability initiatives of all our Members and we work closely with State and Territory Governments on Container Deposit Schemes to ensure they are cost-effective and deliver for manufacturers and consumers.

The ABCL and its members consider sustainability a top priority for our industry. We advocate for better recycling outcomes at the state and federal level, sit on multiple national and international reference groups, and are a signatory to the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation and the ANZPAC Plastics Pact. Through our Environmental Priorities Plan, the Beverage Industry Environmental Committee and the Packaging Working Group, we help our members make more sustainable choices, evaluate their packaging and quantify it for the greater public.  

We invite you to learn about the packaging you use with your favourite drinks and how the ABCL is working to ensure we recover every bottle, can and pack and recycle it back into new recycled containers for your drinks.  

The Environmental Priorities Plan 

As an industry, we strive to stay on the cutting edge of sustainability initiatives both globally and at home. To do this, we have a framework we use to ensure we are consistently treating the environment and resources around us with the upmost care. This Environmental Priorities Plan guides our everyday actions by constantly evaluating and actioning issues which mean the most to the communities we serve. From packaging to energy, supply chain to resource usage, we strive to look at the whole of our operations for aspects to improve.  

Circular Economy  

Extended producer responsibility of materials is the only proven and feasible way to scale packaging collection, recycling and reuse1. Our industry is proud to be ahead of the pack by being stewards of container deposit schemes (CDS), the preeminent and most successful product stewardship program in Australia. Funded 100% by beverage manufacturers and suppliers, these programs ensure funding for product collection, sortation and recycling. By 2023 all Australian States and Territories will have an operational CDS.  

South Australia was one of the first places to have a CDS, beginning in 1977. Other states had direct take-back programs with manufacturers in the 1960s and 1970s, but South Australia really set the stage for a best practice producer responsibility scheme both at home and abroad. Now, Europe and the Asia-Pacific look to Australia to learn about how to operate schemes that work the best for consumers and industry.  

In 2019-2020, it is estimated that approximately 70% of eligible containers were recovered through CDS, but we know we can always do better. These schemes have created a path to achieving a circular economy for our packaging. We will now focus on continuous improvement to ensure that the industry gets “every bottle back”. The ABCL does this by providing guidance to new and existing container deposit schemes through participation on expert reference groups to ensure the schemes are operating as efficiently as possible.  

The ABCL and the Beverage Industry Environmental Committee have been working with stakeholders across government, industry, and regulatory bodies to optimise recovery processes, increase CDS access, and raise the quality of processed materials for reintegration into new beverage products. We are also looking to partner in the future with local councils, businesses and educational institutions to find gaps in collection that we can target and remedy. Our vision is to see no containers in landfill, and we have a robust plan we will be rolling out across 2022-2023 to make it a reality.  

 You can learn more about the individual Container Deposit Schemes here. 

For information on ideal scheme attributes, click here.

CDS Harmonisation  

The beverage industry is proud of the extensive network of container deposit schemes (CDS) that are established or are about to begin across the country. Much work has been put into ensuring the schemes recover the most material possible for use in new beverage containers. Unfortunately, the lack of a federal system forces businesses to spend countless hours dealing with the administration and reporting of the different schemes. It means more pressure on small and medium enterprises at a time when they are already under considerable strain. 

The ABCL supports and advocates for a suite of harmonisation measures, meant to bring these schemes into greater balance. By streamlining costs, processes and administrative functions, beverage companies will be able to bring their products to you for less, and you will be able to return your containers easier. If you don’t know where to bring your CDS eligible containers, you can learn about the schemes here.  

Kerbside Harmonisation 

Australia’s recycling landscape is currently fragmented. What you can recycle at kerbside is mainly dependent on where you live and the services your council offers. This system makes recycling confusing for the average consumer, especially those who often move around. One of the biggest causes of recycling contamination is “wishcycling” where people put items they think can be recycled in the bin without checking if they are actually accepted. When the wrong items make it into your local recycling centre, this can lead to discarding entire trucks full of recycled material to landfill.  

To remedy this, the ABCL advocates for a harmonised kerbside approach nationwide. This makes it easier for you to learn and understand what can be recycled throughout Australia and helps change behaviours, ensuring better recycling outcomes. Better outcomes mean more beverage containers remaining in the circular economy instead of downgrading materials into other uses. That’s something we can all get behind! 

Packaging  

Beverage companies put as much care into their packaging as they do their product, opting for materials that protect your health and safety while optimising for resource recovery and recycling.  

Our industry is dedicated to using packaging that uses less virgin material and energy and is 100 percent recyclable. Initiatives such as participation in the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO), adoption of the Australasian Recycling Label (ARL) and funding and involvement in container deposit schemes (CDS) are ways in which our members work to be good product stewards through public education, resource recovery and design efficiency. Techniques such as “light-weighting” means that our members are designing packaging that does more while using fewer materials and having a smaller environmental impact.  

While recycling rates are ultimately in your hands, we have been actively advocating for increased material recovery through a “caps collection” harmonised approach to CDS and kerbside recycling, which saves valuable material from becoming litter or ending up in landfill. Combine this recovery with the significant investments beverages companies have made to build recycling facilities throughout Australia and you have a domestic, circular economy solution that is better for people and the planet.  

Materials 

APCO’s Sustainable Packaging Principles include a series of actions businesses can undertake to reduce their packaging’s impact on the planet: 

  1. Design for recovery;
  2. Optimise material efficiency;
  3. Design to reduce product waste;
  4. Eliminate hazardous materials;
  5. Use recycled materials;
  6. Use renewable materials;
  7. Design to minimise litter;
  8. Design for transport efficiency;
  9. Design for accessibility; and
  10. Provide consumer information on sustainability.

The beverages industry has been utilising these principles from the start to eliminate what we don’t need, innovate so that our packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable and optimise its recovery to keep it in the circular economy for as long as possible.   

PET  

All beverages produced in PET and HDPE containers are 100% recyclable, including the cap. This means at least 98% of the beverages you love that are packaged in these plastics can be efficiently disposed for remanufacture into new containers (Global Data) 

PET is considered the most preferred plastic to use in packaging due to its high resale value, widespread recovery networks and extensive reprocessing facilities on Australian shores. The PET collected through CDS and kerbside recycling can be made into new bottles multiple times and after that can be further used in formats such as playgrounds, wheelchairs and highway sound barriers.  

Many drinks companies are collaborating to create reprocessing facilities to turn old drinks containers into new ones. We know we need to be responsible for what we put into the world, which is why the beverages industry is taking a strong position by partnering with the waste and recovery industry on these new facilities.   

Did you know? 

  • All PET beverage containers are 100% recyclable. 
  • Recycling infrastructure for PET is well-established, from widespread collection and separation to processing and end-use. 
  • PET can be recycled multiple times and then downgraded into new products, keeping it away from landfill. 
  • The beverage industry is committed to establishing new facilities which will take bottles back for remanufacture into new bottles.  

What is rPET? 

rPET is recycled PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic that is used to make packaging, such as plastic bottles and food containers. After consumers use the original PET containers, they can be returned via a recycling program to a facility that sorts, cleans, and transforms the plastic into rPET flakes or pellets. The rPET flakes/pellets can then be reused to make drink containers or other new products. Converting post-consumer PET into a valuable resource helps the environment because rPET has a lower carbon footprint than virgin PET. 

The drinks industry is focused on increasing its use of recycled content, and the recycling industry is responding by investing in infrastructure. However, to meet the demand for rPET the industry is reliant on Australians correctly recycling their drinks containers. Did you know container deposit schemes provide the highest grade and value of recycled material for the drinks industry to reuse in drinks containers? To find out more about CDS and how to participate, click here 

Industry challenges  

While both the drinks and the waste and recovery industries are racing to bring more remanufacturing plants online, there are a variety of external factors which impact our ability to use recycled content in our packaging. The ABCL is working tirelessly to overcome these barriers and ensure our products are the most reused items throughout Australia.  

Major factors impacting our industry’s ability to use rPET plastic include: 

  • Cost of rPET: Currently, food-grade rPET costs approximately three times the price of virgin PET. That means for small and medium businesses that work with tight margins, incorporating rPET means substantially increasing the price of their product to consumers. Some members have had to increase their per-bottle price by 15-35 cents. We would like to see more rPET available in Australia so our small manufacturers don’t have to pay high import prices. 
  • Supply/availability of rPET: Although remanufacturing plants are running around the clock, the ability for businesses to sell plastics overseas means that places such as Europe are currently buying Australian rPET for high prices. These buyers outbid local companies and push them out of the resale market. Until the waste export ban comes entirely into effect in July 2022, the competition for materials will be too much for local businesses. The only other option is to buy from overseas, which severely increases carbon miles and cost.  
  • Contamination: Material Recovery Facilities (MRF) are receiving a mixed recycling stream from kerbside home recycling collection which is contaminated with food, glass shards and other hazardous materials. This means they can’t use these materials to make new drinks containers but downgrade the materials into uses like roads and bollards. We’d like to keep drinks containers in the circular economy turning bottles into more bottles. Without consistent MRF, recycling and kerbside standards, materials are not making it back into food and beverage packaging. This is why we need everyone to do their part and put their recyclables cleanly into kerbside, or even better, bring their containers to a local CDS facility.  

Glass  

Glass containers are 100% recyclable and do not degrade when remanufactured into new bottles, allowing them to be recycled indefinitely. When glass containers are recycled, they enter plants where they are sorted by colour and washed to remove any impurities. The glass is then crushed, melted, and moulded into new bottles and jars.  

Glass unfortunately can be damaged through the kerbside home recycling system by being embedded in other materials, or crushed too small by the garbage trucks to use in new bottles. These issues are why the ABCL advocates for clean glass streams through avenues like CDS or a fourth recycling bin for glass collection. The more glass Australia can separate into a clean waste stream, the better chance we have of hitting the 50% recycled content target set by the National Packaging Targets  

Aluminium 

Aluminium is another wonder material that can be remade into new cans and bottles indefinitely. Lightweight and strong, aluminium is great for reducing the weight of your product and ensuring less greenhouse gases are used in its transportation. Fortunately, aluminium is accepted in all kerbside home recycling nationally and through CDS.  

During recycling the cans are crushed, shredded and then melted in large furnaces. The liquid aluminium is then placed in moulds for shaping into aluminium ingots which can be remade into approximately 1.5 million cans. Making an aluminium can from recycled material saves 95% of the energy required vs making new products from bauxite ore. Recycling just one aluminium beverage container can save enough energy to power a TV set for three hours!4 

Did you know you can also recycle your aluminium tabs? Just collect them and place them into an aluminium can, squeeze the can shut and put them in your recycling. This will ensure they do not get passed out of the recycling system for being too small. 

Liquid Paperboard 

Less used then the other formats mentioned above, beverage cartons are primarily made from liquid paperboard (LPB). LPB is manufactured from paper with additional protective layers to keep long-life and fresh beverages safe.  

For chilled juice and milk, the protective layers are composed of plastic to protect against outside moisture. For long-life products, a thin layer of aluminium foil is used to protect against light and oxygen. In both cases, paperboard makes up the majority of the carton – about 88% of a 1 litre carton for example. Paperboard, which is simply paper, is 100% renewable and recyclable. 

According to Planet Ark, “the majority of Australians have access to carton recycling as of the beginning of 2020: 90.1% of Australians live in areas where non-foil-lined containers are accepted in their kerbside recycling and 67.2% live in areas where foil-lined containers are accepted. Furthermore, flavoured milk and juice cartons under 1 litre including both long-life and regular cartons are accepted for recycling in states that have container deposit schemes (CDS)”5. 

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New South Wales

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Northern Territory

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Queensland

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South Australia

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