The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) has recently conducted a comprehensive review of the 2025 National Packaging Targets, revealing the need for a stronger co-regulatory framework that strikes a balance between industry-led action and effective government regulation. While acknowledging the significant contributions made by many businesses, the review highlights that the targets are not on track to be met. This blog explores the key findings of the review and emphasizes the importance of collaboration across the entire packaging system to drive change and achieve a circular economy for packaging in Australia.
The 2025 National Packaging Targets serve as a driving force for businesses and APCO members in transitioning to a circular economy for packaging. Despite positive actions taken by some businesses, the review identifies two crucial areas for improvement: packaging design and business-to-business recycling. To reduce the environmental impact and improve recoverability, it is essential for businesses to take more proactive measures.
Addressing the challenges associated with the transformation of the packaging industry requires a whole-of-packaging system approach. The review emphasizes that the task at hand is greater than any one business or sector. It calls for collaboration and co-operation among the packaging industry, government, waste management, and recycling sectors to drive meaningful change. By working together, stakeholders can overcome barriers and pave the way for a sustainable future.
The review outlines four key findings that shed light on the current state of packaging in Australia:
a. Targets Falling Behind Schedule:
Despite the transformative impact of the 2025 Targets, they are not currently on track to be met by the designated year. This highlights the need for a renewed focus and stronger commitment from all stakeholders involved.
b. Long-Term Vision:
To guide action effectively, a longer-term vision is required. This vision will serve as a roadmap for businesses and organizations, ensuring that efforts align with sustainable objectives beyond the 2025 Targets.
c. Collaboration Across the Entire Packaging System:
The review underscores the necessity of collaboration across the entire packaging system. From design to disposal, all stages of the supply chain must work together to drive sustainable practices and achieve desired outcomes.
d. Strong Interventions for Essential Packaging Material Streams:
To maximize impact, strong and coordinated interventions are needed, particularly for essential packaging material streams. By focusing efforts on key areas, significant progress can be made towards a circular economy.
Based on the review, the co-regulatory framework will undergo enhancements to support compliance, protect public interest, and foster accountability. Recommendations include centralised oversight, increased participation across the system, actions to discourage free riders, and stronger integration of design standards.
The release of the review has been well received by industry organizations. The Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR) emphasizes the need for collaborative efforts across sectors to achieve a circular economy for packaging. Stronger regulatory interventions are deemed necessary to promote the adoption of Sustainable Packaging Guidelines and embed minimum standards for Australian recycled content. These measures, along with supporting circular design and establishing robust end markets for recycled materials, will contribute to a sustainable future.
The National Retail Association also welcomes the review, acknowledging the significant work undertaken by APCO and the industry in pursuit of the targets. The association highlights the positive actions taken by businesses across the supply chain, demonstrating their commitment to sustainability.
The review of the 2025 National Packaging Targets conducted by APCO sheds light on the progress and challenges faced in transitioning towards a circular economy for packaging in Australia. While acknowledging the positive contributions made by some businesses, the review calls for a stronger co-regulatory framework and emphasizes the importance of collaboration across the entire packaging system.