Packaging industry moves towards better plastic recycling outcomes - Planet Ark Environmental Foundation

Packaging industry moves towards better plastic recycling outcomes

By Liam Taylor  July 12th, 2018

Rigid plastics has traditionally been a problem area for recycling due to sourcing issues and economic and technical feasibility - but that could be changing.


Rigid plastics have traditionally been a problem area for recycling due to sourcing issues and economic and technical feasibility – but that could be changing.

In a ground-breaking move Unilever Australia & New Zealand has announced it will introduce a recycling system for rigid plastics that will create an end market and new life for the material. Unilever will incorporate at least 25% post-consumer recycled plastic into locally-made bottles for various brands.

It’s currently estimated that only 14% of plastic packaging used globally is recycled, with 40% winding up in landfill and about a third entering our natural environment. Australia does better than the global average with 31% of plastic packaging being recycled, but particular materials have posed ongoing issues.

Rigid plastics made from High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) have previously been difficult to source and use as a recyclable plastic due to a lack of technical capacity and the high costs involved. The Unilever announcement means approximately 750 tonnes of HDPE will be recycled and given a new life per year.

It represents a substantial step forward in the long-term goal of developing a circular economy in Australia by creating domestic demand for the rigid plastics that wind up in kerbside collection bins.

Clive Stiff, CEO of Unilever Australia & New Zealand said the company was proud to announce the move but noted that no business could achieve the necessary transformation alone.

“Creating a local market and demand for all types of recycled plastic is critical and heavy lifting is needed from all players involved,” Mr Stiff said.

“We need a complete shift in how we think about and use resources.”

Another initiative that should improve recycling outcomes is the Australasian Recycling Label, which aims to not only increase recycling rates of packaging, but also to reduce contamination in the recycling bin by non-recyclable materials. This means our recyclable materials are cleaner, of higher quality and a more valuable manufacturing resource. The ARL is already on several thousand products around Australia with more expected in the near future.


Positive Action

  • Where possible, choose products with packaging that is at least partially composed of recycled materials.
  • Recycle soft plastics by dropping them off at your closest REDcycle collection point.
  • Check Recycling Near You for information on conditionally recyclable products or components.


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Positive Environment News has been compiled using publicly available information. Planet Ark does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the original information and encourages readers to check the references before using this information for their own purposes.


By Liam Taylor

Prior to joining Planet Ark Liam spent his time studying global environmental issues, travelling Southeast Asia on the cheap and working for a sustainable property management company in Bali, Indonesia. Joining the communications team at Planet Ark, he hopes to inspire positive environmental behaviour through effective and positive messaging.

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