Major brands pledge action on plastic at inaugural summit

Cleanaway, Unilever, Nestle and McDonald's among businesses to share plans to reduce single-plastic use.

Cleanaway, Unilever, McDonald’s and Pact Group were among the organisations to share their ambitious 2025 plastics commitments at the inaugural National Plastics Summit in Canberra on Monday.

The National Plastics Summit, brought together more than 200 representatives from government, industry and community sectors to address issues with, and solutions to, the use of plastics in the Australian economy,

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison opened the summit, telling major retailers, recyclers, industry groups researchers and students that Australia needs to take responsibility for its plastic waste and has foreshadowed further budget announcements to encourage demand for recycled products and to expand industry capability.

Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley stressed the government’s commitment to fixing Australia’s plastic waste problem and the importance of industry working with government and consumers, while Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environmental Management, Trevor Evans, highlighted the economic opportunities and the fact the recycling industry was ready to step up to improve recycling rates.

At the conference, Australia’s largest manufacturer of rigid plastics, Pact Group, announced a $500 million investment in existing and new facilities for sustainable packaging, re-use and recycling initiatives over the next five years.

FMCG giant Unilever announced its plans to halve the amount of virgin plastic it uses by buying more recycled plastic and reducing the amount of plastic it uses in its packaging by more than 100,000 tonnes. McDonald’s pledged to phase out 585 tonnes of single use plastic by removing plastic knives and forks from stores by the end of the year, while Australia Post pledged to make all plastic postage bags out of recycled material by December 2020.

Retail giant Coles announced $430,000 in new funding for REDcycle to treble the amount of soft based plastic that it collects, while Nestlé will partner with waste management company IQ Renew in a trial that will see soft plastics collected from more than 100,000 homes, diverting tonnes of soft plastic otherwise headed for landfill.

Nestlé also committed to reducing its use of virgin plastic by one third by 2025 and committed to procure globally AUD$2.3billion worth of recycled food grade plastic. PepsiCo pledged $650,000 to support Greening the Green, a partnership with Clean Up Australia, REDcycle and Replas. The three-year national program aims to educate consumers on soft plastic recovery and soft plastic recycling.

Cleanaway, Pact and Asahi announced details of their plastic pelletising facility in Albury/Wodonga processing approximately 28,000 tonnes (900 million bottles) per year, while Qantas is set to remove 100 million single-use plastic items, such as cups, cutlery and meal boxes by end 2020 replacing them with compostable items.

The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) also announced it will lead the development of the ANZPAC Plastic Pact, a new program within the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Global Plastics Pact Network.

ANZPAC will provide the significant intervention required to meet Australia’s national plastic packaging target – that 70 per cent of all plastic packaging will be recycled or composted by 2025.

Evans said the summit was another important step in working with industry to drive long-term practical outcomes such as increasing Australia’s recycling rates and domestic reprocessing capabilities.

“We are looking towards fundamentally changing the way we think about and manage our waste, and creating new markets for recycled products.

“This transformation towards a circular economy will both create jobs and help our environment.”

Other organisations making major commitments included Kmart, Amcor, Licella, Plastics Forests and Dairy Australia.

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