Report predicts bioplastics growth
With multiple environmental benefits, bioplastics could be vital in helping solve the world’s plastic problem.
About eight million pieces of plastic make their way into the world’s oceans each day, representing a global-scale pollution problem that is not going anywhere without serious intervention.
Bioplastics — plastics produced from biomass feedstocks — could help solve the world’s plastics problem but are struggling to wrestle market share away from conventional plastics. Bioplastics such as polylactic acid, polyhydroxyalkanoates and polybutyl succinate are biodegradable and can have similar, if not identical, functionalities to their fossil-based counterparts. So why aren’t they being widely adopted? An IDTechEx report explores the factors helping and hindering the adoption of bioplastics.
Cost of production
The IDTechEx report — ‘Bioplastics 2020–2025’ — identifies several barriers to more widespread adoption of bioplastics, the major issue being that they are still more expensive to produce than petrochemically derived plastics. Despite a majority of consumers saying they want brands that are sustainable, few are actually willing to pay extra for it, with willingness to pay falling sharply for products with a Green Premium over 5%.
Oil prices fell in 2014 and have stayed low since then, making it even harder for bioplastics to compete on price. As a finite resource, oil prices cannot remain this low forever, but until prices rise bioplastics producers will have to work hard to cut production costs.
The challenge of upscaling
Despite demonstrating proof of concepts in an academic setting, the transition to industrial-scale production is far from straightforward and many companies are reported to have gone bankrupt trying to make the jump. A conservative approach to production methods does not work well with the complexity of high-volume fermentation. Furthermore, there is a lack of capital investment from venture capitalists and governments to help academic innovators and early-stage startups expand production.
Policy change as a facilitator
Despite the barriers to the widespread adoption of bioplastics, governments are increasingly introducing policy changes to help overcome the challenges detailed above. In 2018 the EU updated its Bioeconomy Strategy, making funding available for circular economy projects, and in 2019 the San Francisco Bay Area introduced a range of restrictions on single-use plastics.
Bioplastics companies are also increasingly employing innovative technical approaches to reduce costs, including the use of synthetic biology.
The Australasian Bioplastics Association (ABA) is the peak industry body for manufacturers, converters and distributors of bioplastic products and materials throughout Australia and New Zealand. Dedicated to promoting plastics that are biodegradable, compostable and based on renewable resources, the ABA administers a voluntary verification scheme for biodegradable plastics.
“The growth of the market for sustainable resins derived from renewable resources is driven by recognition that fossil fuel resources are finite and will one day run out,” the ABA said.
“Change is required and this is recognised by business and governments around the world who are encouraging recycling, composting of organic waste, and use of sustainable and renewable materials.”
First posted on Sustainability Matters on 02/04/20 Read more here
If you take one of Ellen Burns’ energy bars, eat it and throw the wrapper in the compost bin, 13 weeks later you will find nothing but dirt.
As Australia stares down a recycling crisis that threatens the viability of a multi-billion dollar industry and potentially thousands of jobs, some small businesses like Ms Burns’ have scrambled to find new types of packaging that have no need for a yellow kerbside bin.
The Ballarat-based entrepreneur said her business is one of only three in Australia that uses home-compostable packaging, which is plant-based and imported from the United Kingdom. “When I started running my own business it kind of seemed contradictory because I was creating all this plastic waste and putting that out into the world,” Ms Burns said.
“It’s a bit more noticeable when you have literally boxes of plastic pouches rather than as a consumer you might only be using one a day or a couple of plastic packages a day.”
While there has been considerable improvement to public awareness of Australia’s waste woes, home-compostable packaging is only one step in a much longer journey towards fixing the recycling industry’s systematic flaws.
How does home-compostable packaging work?
The bioplastic packaging that Ellen Burns uses is accredited by the Australasian Bioplastics Association [ABA] and made from cellulose derived from plants like eucalyptus and sugarcane. Member of the ABA’s Technical Committee, Warwick Hall, said testing of compostable packaging is undertaken in conjunction with German firm DIN CERTCO to ensure there are no toxic residues.
“The product breaks down into carbon dioxide, water and carbon biomass just the same as a tomato or an orange,” he said.
But Mr Hall said the wrapping may not biodegrade properly alongside other forms of general waste and that the ideal conditions of a compost bin are needed. “It needs to be composted because landfill conditions vary so much that a material may or may not biodegrade under those conditions.
“Others are dry landfills where no oxygen can get in there and nothing biodegrades or it takes an awfully long time.”
“We’ve all read reports about landfill being dug up and people finding vegetable matter and old newspapers,” he said.
Is home-compostable packaging economically viable?
Over the past three years Ellen Burns has spent her entire life savings on setting up her business and establishing the new compostable packaging. “Between plastic and this, it’s probably maybe 10 times more expensive,” she said. “I understand why the bigger businesses don’t do it, because for them to switch all their products over it would actually be a huge amount of money.” Ms Burns primarily stocks cafes and health food stores and said there is a greater appetite for environmentally friendly products among her target market.
“So I thought it was worth investing in what my beliefs are and what my brand stands for, rather than try to minimise the cost.”
But Ms Burns said due to the relatively small size of her business and the lower cost of purchasing packaging in bulk orders, the price increase passed on to consumers is minimal. “In terms of packaging per wrapper, you’re talking probably 10 to 15 cents difference per bar.”
Soft plastic problems present an opportunity for home compost
Unless placed in dedicated recycling bins found at most supermarkets, traditional plastic food packaging presents a particular problem, with only a handful of regional councils able to process them from kerbside recycling bins.
Bioplastics are derived from renewable substances, but can include a broad range of products such as biodegradable starch blends, polyesters or regenerable cellulose — each with varying environmental impacts.The 2016-17 Australian Plastics Recycling Survey stated that the amount of biodegradable plastic being composted is unknown but estimated that less than 100 tonnes was undertaken nationally. That is compared to 3,513,100 tonnes of plastic consumed in the same year, of which 11.8 per cent was recycled.
A June 2018 report released by the Senate Environment and Communications Reference Committee described Australia’s recycling system as being in ‘grave danger’ due to China’s ban on the import of some recyclables, along with underinvestment in the domestic industry. The report points to the “enormity of problems created by plastics” with many municipal recycling systems unable to sort food wrappers from other harder plastics including bottles and containers.
What does the future hold for bioplastics?
In April the Federal and State Governments agreed that all Australian packaging should be recyclable, combustible or compostable by 2025 — a decision Warwick Hall said provides momentum to the burgeoning bioplastics industry.
“Our conventional thinking for recycling is, we take it away and we melt or we crush it up and generally just physically recycle it into another form,” he said.
“In this case it’s the same concept, but just organic rather than conventional recycling … it’s not intended to replace conventional recycling, it’s another means.”
While there are industrial composting options available already, Mr Hall said the ultimate success of compostable packaging will depend on the willingness of consumers to change their waste and recycling habits.
“Petrochemical plastics are pumped out by the hundreds of thousands of tonnes and that gives you efficiencies whereas bioplastics are made in smaller quantities and therefore you don’t get those same efficiencies,” he said.
“We wouldn’t think that all packaging will become compostable and certainly not the majority of packaging will become compostable but it is an option available.”
First posted on ABC News on 27/11/18 Read more here
Biodegradation Of Synthetic Polymers In Soils: Tracking carbon into CO2 and microbial biomass
Plastic materials are widely used in agricultural applications to achieve food security for the growing world population. Thin mulch films made of polyethylene are used in agriculture in numerous countries, where they cause extensive soil contamination. The use of biodegradable instead of nonbiodegradable polymers in single-use agricultural applications, including plastic mulching, promises to reduce plastic accumulation in the environment.
A study by researchers at ETH Zurich and Eawag have now identified an alternative: films made of the polymer PBAT biodegrade in soils. Zumstein et al Biodegradation_of_synthetic_polymers_in_soils_Trac
Our world is drowning in a flood of plastic. Eight million tons of plastic end up in the oceans every year. Agricultural soils are also threatened by plastic pollution. Farmers around the world apply enormous amounts of polyethylene (PE) mulch films onto soils to combat weeds, increase soil temperature and keep the soil moist, thereby increasing overall crop yields.
After harvest, it often is impossible for farmers to re-collect the entire films, particularly when films are only a few micrometers thin. Film debris then makes its way into the soil and accumulates in the soil over time, because PE does not biodegrade. Film residues in soils decrease soil fertility, interfere with water transport and diminish crop growth.
Soil microbes mineralise films composed of alternative polymer
Researchers at ETH Zurich and the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag) have now shown in an interdisciplinary study that there is reason to be hopeful. In their recent study, they demonstrate that soil microbes degrade films composed of the alternative polymer poly(butylene adipate-co-terephthalate) (PBAT). Their work has just been published in the journal Science Advances.
In the research project coordinated by Michael Sander, Kristopher McNeill and Hans-Peter Kohler, former ETH doctoral student Michael Zumstein succeeded in demonstrating that soil microorganisms metabolically utilised the carbon in the PBAT polymer both for energy production and also to build up microbial biomass.
“This research directly demonstrates, for the first time, that soil microorganisms mineralise PBAT films in soils and transfer carbon from the polymer into their biomass,” says Michael Sander, Senior Scientist in the Environmental Chemistry Group in the Department of Environmental Systems Science at ETH Zurich.
Like PE, PBAT is a petroleum-based polymer that is used to make various products, including mulch films. Because PBAT was already classified as biodegradable in compost, the ETH and Eawag researchers aimed at assessing whether PBAT also biodegrades in agricultural soils. By comparison, PE does not biodegrade in compost or in soil.
Labelling of polymer with carbon-13
In their experiments, the researchers used PBAT material that was custom-synthesised from monomers to contain a defined amount of the stable carbon-13 isotope. This isotope label enabled the scientists to track the polymer-derived carbon along different biodegradation pathways in soil.
Upon biodegrading PBAT, the soil microorganisms liberated carbon-13 from the polymer.
Using isotope-sensitive analytical equipment, the researchers found that the carbon-13 from PBAT was not only converted into carbon dioxide (CO2) as a result of microbial respiration but also incorporated into the biomass of microorganisms colonizing the polymer surface.
“The beauty of our study is that we used stable isotopes to precisely track PBAT-derived carbon along different biodegradation pathways of the polymer in the soil,” says Michael Zumstein.
The researchers are the first to successfully demonstrate – with high scientific rigor – that a plastic material is effectively biodegraded in soils.
Because not all materials that were labelled “biodegradable” in the past really fulfilled the necessary criteria. “By definition biodegradation demands that microbes metabolically use all carbon in the polymer chains for energy production and biomass formation – as we now demonstrated for PBAT,” says Hans-Peter Kohler, environmental microbiologist at Eawag.
The definition highlights that biodegradable plastics fundamentally differ from those that merely disintegrate into tiny plastic particles, for instance after exposure of the plastic to sunlight, but that do not mineralise. “Many plastic materials simply crumble into tiny fragments that persist in the environment as microplastics – even if this plastic is invisible to the naked eye,” Kohler says.
After six weeks of incubation, the scientists assessed the extent to which soil microorganisms had colonised the PBAT surfaces. They further quantified the amount of CO2 that was formed in the incubation bottles and how much of the carbon-13 isotope the CO2 contained. Finally, to directly demonstrate the incorporation of carbon from the polymer in the biomass of microorganisms on the polymer surfaces, they collaborated with researchers from the University of Vienna.
At this stage, the researchers cannot yet say with certainty over which timeframe PBAT degrades in soils in the natural environment given that they conducted their experiments in the lab, not in the field. Longer-term studies in different soils and under various conditions in the field are now needed to assess the biodegradation of PBAT films under real environmental conditions.
Too early for an all-clear
“Unfortunately, there is no reason to cheer as of yet: we’re still far from resolving the global environmental problem of plastic pollution,” says Sander, “but we’ve taken a very important first step in the direction of plastic biodegradability in soil.”
At the same time, he cautions against unrealistic expectations for biodegrading plastics in the environment: “As we have demonstrated, there is hope for our soils in the form of biodegradable polymers. The results from soils should, however, not be directly transferred to other natural environments. For instance, biodegradation of polymers in seawater might be considerably slower, because the conditions there are different and so are the microbial communities.”
Initially Published by Peter Rüegg on the 25/07/18 in the ETH Zürich
Currently, bioplastics represent about one percent of the about 320 million tonnes of plastic produced annually. But
as demand is rising and with more sophisticated biopolymers, applications, and products emerging, the market is
Dynamic market growth
According to the latest market data compiled by European Bioplastics in cooperation with the research institute nova-Institute,
global bioplastics production capacity is set to increase from around 2.05 million tonnes in 2017 to approximately
2.44 million tonnes in 2022. Report_Bioplastics_Market_Data_2017
AORA Demonstration Day Proves ABA Certified Compostable Materials Meet Australian Composting Requirements.
The Australasian Bioplastics Association (ABA) and its Members participated at the 2018 Australian Organics Recycling Association (AORA) Annual Conference Demonstration Day Held in Brisbane by putting certified compostable bags and food service ware to the test.
Participating ABA members supplied their certified compostable bags and food service ware with the AORA team to establish time required for items to compost under AORA established conditions. ABA member certified compostable bags and food service ware were buried in an open windrow. Windrow composting is the production of compost by piling organic matter in long rows (windrows).
The AORA team built a windrow of composting FOGO (Food Organics Green Organics) consisting mostly of green waste removed from normal processes at around two weeks from establishment and at around seven weeks prior to the demonstration. Once built, the windrow was not turned again.
The certified compostable items supplied by ABA members were buried in the windrow and staked out at 6/4/2/1 weeks to test decomposition time. At 6/4/2/1 weeks and around 10 days prior to the demonstration the AORA team placed fresh food waste (lettuce and other green leaves) in ABA member certified compostable plastic bags and placed them and some ABA member certified compostable plates, Take-out containers, Clear cups, Paper Coffee Cups and cup lids into holes dug to a depth of around 400-600mm in the windrows. These were re-buried and marked with stakes. The windrow was not otherwise touched. The windrows were temperature tested weekly at 62-65C.
On the AORA Demonstration Day in front of AORA Conference attendees, the AORA team dug up the areas marked with the stakes to check the certified compostable materials state of decomposition. At none of the marked stakes were AORA able to find any evidence of the buried material.
The results, of the decomposition trial of ABA member supplied certified compostable material, were conclusive that all the materials buried during the trial period were composted. The rate of decomposition particularly from items buried at the 1/2/4 week stakes demonstrated the speed of decomposition of certified compostable items. Further investigation, by the AORA team, using a Komptech turner and trommels to ensure nothing was missed, again confirmed that all ABA member supplied certified compostable items had composted.
On completion of the test, ABA Executive Warwick Hall and ABA Committee Member Rivka Garson spoke to AORA members on the stringent process that compostable products need to go through to achieve certification and have the ability to carry the seedling or home compostability logo. Hall and Garson, also spoke on the importance of ensuring that only certified compostable bags and products are used for in composting processes and how to easily identify these items, through the seedling logo and home compostability logo as well as the identifying number supplied to each ABA members products. Without the logos and identifying numbers, material is not considered certified compostable.
Martin Tower, Executive Director AORA stated, “I have to say I was amazed (and a bit embarrassed) that we could find no evidence of anything we buried. I was paying particular attention when the Komptech turner went through the pile to see if we had missed anything but again I saw nothing then or subsequently before the trommels got to work on the windrow. This conclusively proves that Australasian Bioplastics Members supplied certified compostable bags and food service ware decompose under AORA specified conditions.”
About the AORA Annual Conference
The AORA Annual Conference is well established as the principal conference in Australia for the recycled organics industry. Each conference is a forum for education, discussion and networking related to Organics Recycling. It is also an opportunity to celebrate outstanding achievements in the industry. www.aoraconference.com.au
The Australasian Bioplastics Association (ABA) welcomes and applauds the announcement from Federal Energy and Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg that by 2025, 100 per cent of Australian packaging to be recyclable, compostable or reusable.
Minister Frydenberg has been pushing the plan to ensure packaging is recyclable, reusable or compostable, which would eliminate much of household rubbish. Commonwealth, state and territory environment ministers have agreed to cut Australia’s supply of waste, increase our recycling capability and increase the demand for recyclable products in response to China’s new restrictions on recyclable waste.
Josh Frydenberg stated, “The solution is to work cooperatively with the states to create new opportunities for Australia to build its domestic capacity to recycle more material; to get governments to procure more recyclable material; to turn more waste into energy; and to look at ensuring that all packaging is reusable or recyclable by 2025.”
Ministers have also brought forward the review of Australia’s National Waste Policy to be completed within a year. This will ensure that governments are taking the most appropriate and timely actions to support a sustainable recycling industry. Australia has an opportunity to develop its capabilities and capacity in recycling through effective cooperation and collaboration among the three levels of government.
As the leading industry body for Australian and New Zealand manufacturers, converters and distributors of bioplastic products and materials, the Australasian Bioplastics Association administrators a voluntary verification scheme for compostable bioplastics certification.
Robin Tuckerman, Australasian Bioplastics Association representative states, “The Australasian Bioplastics Association welcomes the announcement by Minister Frydenberg and the recognition that certified compostable bioplastics have a fundamental game changing role in reducing waste going to landfill. Many of our members are leaders in bioplastics, are dedicated to a circular economy and have been developing certified compostable alternatives to conventional plastics for decades.”
Australasian Bioplastics Association members are already a major contributor to local councils FOGO (Food Organics Garden Organics) waste diversion programs. Recognising that diverting FOGO from landfill has environmental and commercial benefits, many Australian and New Zealand councils have implemented FOGO diversion programs where FOGO is collected in certified compostable bags and sent to commercial composting facility.
Certified compostable bioplastics are made from bio-based material and compost in either industrial compost facilities if certified to Australian Standards 4736-2006 for Industrial Composting or if certified to Australian Standards 5810-2006 for Home Composting. Certification provides compost facilities confidence that compostable bags do not cause contamination. The Australasian Bioplastics Association’s programs are supported by AORA (Australian Organics Recycling Association).
For almost every conventional plastic material and application, there is a bioplastic alternative available on the market that has the same properties and offers additional advantages. With Australia’s largest supermarkets taking robust action to phase out single-use plastic bags and states heading to bans on plastic bags used by retail outlets including reducing plastic wrapping on fruit and vegies, certified compostable bags offer a real alternative. Certified compostable labelling assists consumers, recyclers, composters and councils to clearly identify these products and ensure correct waste separation, collection and recovery.
Rivka Garson, Australasian Bioplastics Association committee member states, “Made from bio- based resins, that compost in industrial facilities within 12 weeks and therefore having a real impact on plastic waste reduction; certified compostable film can be used for an endless list of items including external packaging, produce bags, dog poo bags, agricultural films and many more items. Going forward, the Australasian Bioplastics Association is looking forward to having a very positive effect on Australian waste reduction.”
The 2025, 100 per cent target will be delivered by the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation, working with its 950 member companies and partners, including the Australasian Bioplastics Association.
A Plastics Market Watch report released 10 May, entitled Watching: Bioplastics – the Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS) reports bioplastics are in a growth cycle stage and will outpace the economy as a whole. New investments and entrants in the sector and new products and manufacturing technologies are projected to make bioplastics more competitive and dynamic.
The report finds growing interest in bioplastics, but also a continued need for education. According to a survey PLASTICS conducted of U.S. consumers in January 2018, more consumers are “familiar” or “somewhat familiar” with bioplastics compared to a survey conducted just two years ago; 32 percent of consumers are familiar with bioplastics in 2018 compared to only 27 percent in 2016. The PLASTICS survey also indicated 64 percent of consumers would prefer to buy a product made with bioplastics – and expect to see bioplastics in disposable plastic tableware, plastic bags, food and cosmetic packaging, and toys.
As bioplastics product applications continue to expand, the growth dynamics of the industry will continue to shift. Looking at industry studies on market segmentation, packaging is the largest segment of the market at 37 percent followed by bottles at 32 percent. Growth opportunities in bioplastics manufacturing are expected to continue from the demand and supply side. While in the past growth in bioplastics was primarily driven by higher petrol-based polymers, changes in consumer behavior will be a significant factor for higher demand of bioplastics.
“Changes in U.S. tax policy, particularly the full expensing of capital expenditure, should support research and development in bioplastics. The overall low cost of energy in the U.S. complements nicely with research and development activities and manufacturing, which generates a stable supply of innovative bioplastic products,” said Perc Pineda, PhD, chief economist at PLASTICS.
The research and partnerships with bioplastics is exemplified by the efforts to develop a 100 percent biobased PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) bottle. Most PET bottles currently have approximately 30 percent biobased material, but a number of companies and collaborations are working to develop and launch, at commercial scale, a PET plastic bottle made from 100 percent biobased material.
Despite the industry’s embrace of bioplastics and their expanding presence in a wide range of products, PLASTICS’ Pineda noted, “A high percentage of surveyed respondents believe they have not seen or used a product made from bioplastic — either biobased or biodegradable. Continuing to educate consumers on bioplastics would go a long way.”
The report is available for download to members and non-members. First published in bioplastics Magazine
China’s Waste Ban May Just Be An Opportunity
From March 1, China is no longer importing certain “foreign garbage” from countries including Australia and New Zealand. China has been the world’s largest importer and recycler of plastic, paper and scrap metal, a decision that has wide-reaching impacts.
Up to now China has imported recyclable materials, taking in more than 30 million metric tonnes of waste from all over the world, including from the US, EU, Japan, and Australia. Unfortunately much of what arrived in China was dirty or contaminated or mixed. Included in the ban are 24 types of solid waste, any rubbish that is imported in the future needs to be processed and uncontaminated. China’s ban on foreign plastics is as a result of a combination of the government taking a harder line on pollution, with environmental controls getting stricter as well as the influx of contaminated waste landing on its shores.
In Australia 619,000 tonnes of materials worth $523 million and in New Zealand $21 million of waste a year is expected to be impacted by the Chinese ban. With much of the discussion and articles being in regards to what to do with the mountains of waste that will start building in globally, the Australasian Bioplastics Association (ABA) believes that the ban can lead to some fundamental changes in the reduction and treatment of waste. Change can lead to immobilisation or to innovation.
At an Australian state level, the Victorian Government for example is assisting local councils affected by China’s ban with $13 million to help them manage their rubbish. But they will be on their own from July 1. Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the money would give councils, and their contractors, time to develop solutions and renegotiate contracts. The Victoria State Government also announced a taskforce would be established to help the industry adapt to the new landscape which doesn’t include sending rubbish to China.
Waste Management Association of Australia (WMAA) said industry had signalled to government for a long time that relying on the export markets for recyclables was dangerous and now it find itself, with the change in China’s legislation, walking towards this inevitability.
Doing Things Differently
Generally, recyclers make money if they can get rid of plastics and other recyclable material for more money than it costs to collect yet not all recyclers follow the same model. TerraCycle is an innovative recycling company that has become a global leader in recycling hard-to-recycle waste. TerraCycle takes a different approach, it works directly with companies like L’Oréal, Colgate, Nestle and Unilever to collect and process hard-to-recycle materials. TerraCycle sells the material as plastic pellets or metal alloys to be made into things like plastic garbage bags, frisbees, dog bowls and benches. For this reason, the China ban will not impact its business model as much but the cost will increase. More importantly, as TerraCycle’s Tom Szaky states, “We can’t recycle our way to sustainability. We have to think purchase differently. There is the ability for us to affect this whole thing.”
Time to Reduce Waste
China was the world’s dominant importer of plastic waste. A senior EU official stated, he now expected the waste to go to other countries in Southeast Asia, such as Vietnam and Malaysia. The question for Australia and New Zealand is whether commencing to send waste to another country is really the long term solution required. First and foremost waste reduction should be at the top of every Australian and New Zealand’s policy makers list.
Governments, introducing sustainable procurement nationally would demonstrate that government are willing to model these behaviours. Sustainable consumption should be the main focus of future legislation, including the reduction of packaging on products that do not actually require packaging. Industry could be legislated to use recycled or compostable plant based content wherever possible, while consumers could be encouraged to choose recycled or compostable packaging through the introduction of clear labelling disclosing the degree of recycled content or Certified compostability. Governments, local, state and federal are also key drivers in the development of organic recycling industry, shifting valuable waste from landfill and creating a usable product – nutrient-rich compost.
Creating New Industries & New Jobs
The WMAA is looking to potential opportunities. The WMAA proposes investment in new recycling infrastructure which create construction jobs and economic activity that provides a real boost to local economies. The WMAA also believes that the change to a circular economy will not only bring long term employment, through green-collar manufacturing, but also sustainable economic growth. As an example, with Container Deposit Schemes being introduced nationally and WMAA said the key is that the recycled product made in Australia is re-used by the beverage companies that participate in this scheme.
The WMAA would like to ensure that packagers are using recycled products as an input in all they do but understand that governmental support is imperative. The WMAA wants the Federal Government to assist in establishing a circular economy by helping industry and encouraging consumers.
In South Australian data has shown that an extra 25,000 jobs would be created over five years by recycling and reusing our waste rather than dumping or exporting it.
Sydney-based Re.Group recently invested $8 million to open a new recycling operation at Hume in the ACT and is stepping up its campaign to grow its local customer base. At the Hume facility Re.Group process all the glass that it receives which is made into sand that can be reused locally. This stops new raw material being sourced, as instead of mining a beach or a river bed and getting new sand, a more sustainable product for building all kinds of infrastructure like roads.”
What About Bioplastics?
Bioplastics are not new and the benefits of bioplastics in a circular economy are gaining more attention. With a vast range of products from bags, to phone covers, to plant pots, to dog toys, to food containers and much more, all being made from bioplastics it demonstrates that bioplastics can replace many things made from conventional plastic.
In Australia, with numerous Councils implement FOGO (Food Organics and Green Organics Recycling), bioplastics especially certified compostable plastics are starting to become more predominant in our communities. Certified Compostable plastics bags are used to capture food waste for recycling at compost facilities or in home composting.
Food services companies are also looking to change. With our busy life styles Australians are predicted to spend US$1,342m delivered / take away food in 2018, this equates to a lot of take-away containers and a lot of single use plastic. Companies such as ABA Members BioPak, Dzolv Products Pty Ltd and Novamont already produce compostable take away food containers, coffee cups and food service ware, which can be sent to industrial compost facilities rather than landfill.
With big names including Amcor, Ecover, evian, L’Oréal, Mars, M&S, PepsiCo, the Coca-Cola Company, Unilever, Walmart, Werner & Mertz, Procter & Gamble, Puma, Samsung, IKEA, Tetra Pak, Heinz, Stella McCartney, Gucci and retail leader Iceland UK all implementing large scale bioplastics products and packaging solutions overseas, bioplastics is here today and for the future.
Acting On The Future
China’s change in legislation to not accept certain recyclable materials will create an impact in Australia and New Zealand. The question is, how will legislators and industry in both countries react? For Australia and New Zealand the future is about protecting jobs and ensuring every household and business has confidence to continue recycling whilst reducing our waste and personal footprint. Hopefully it is also about creating a robust circular economy that can benefit both Australia and New Zealand.
Recycling Crisis: True Goal Is Zero Waste Going To Landfill
After years of doing the right thing by separating our garbage so that our glass bottles, newspapers and plastics can be recycled, Victorians are now being told that all that recycling could be, well, a waste of time.
According to the Municipal Association of Victoria, a decision by China to place a ban on the import of recycling materials from outside the country has resulted in several councils having their recycling contracts cut back by waste companies.
The Chinese town of Giuyu used to be a dumping ground for the world’s trash. Now China has banned imports of foreign waste to crack down on its own chronic pollution problem. If this continues, councils will have to stockpile millions of tonnes of waste or worse, dump it all in landfills.
BioPak, which was established in 2006, is the largest manufacturer and distributor of environmentally sustainable disposable food packaging in Australia, which means our products are designed to be repurposed rather than ending up in the local tip.
It also means that we are acutely aware of the seriousness of the situation. Let’s be clear: Australia is facing a potential waste crisis – we are running out of landfills, no matter how many more we build.
Every year, Australians send more than 6.2 million tonnes of organic waste to landfill, which include everything from food scraps to garden clippings and cardboard boxes. In 2016 alone, Australians sent about 2.2 million tonnes of plastic and about 1.6 million tonnes of paper and cardboard to landfill.
The landfill problem is not one limited to Victoria or even Australia – the issue has been troubling policy makers across the world, especially in the United States and Europe. We are well aware of what this means: landfills will eventually fill up, no matter how many we build.
So, what can we do? Well, we need to focus on more than recycling, for starters.
While continuing to encourage more councils to recycle waste, we believe the time has come to find others ways to deal with this huge landfill problem.
In other words, we need to consider alternatives, such as compostable food service packaging, including those ubiquitous coffee cups.
It means we need to start talking about a truly circular economy, where we design and produce food service packaging from environmentally friendly, responsibly sourced rapidly renewable materials, such as paper from managed plantations, agricultural by-products such as the stalks of sugar cane after the sugar has been extracted and compostable bioplastics. Then comes the hard bit: to help guide that compostable packaging and remaining food scraps through the economy, from café or restaurant to workplace to green waste bins.
Eventually, those green waste bins are processed at commercial composting facilities where their contents are turned into nutrient-rich compost for use at home – or in large-scale commercial agriculture and land rehabilitation.
A major benefit of producing compostable, bio-based food packaging is that through commercial composting it can be diverted from landfill along with any remaining food residues at the end of its life.
In the process, the methane gas that organics emit when they biodegrade in landfill is eliminated.
This is not futuristic thinking by any means. The compostable foodservice packaging is widely available and commercial scale compost infrastructure is growing at a rapid pace to address the huge amounts of organic waste that mostly goes to landfill. European countries including France and England have committed to phase out and ban non compostable foodservice packaging within the next decade.
In Britain, where the debate has accelerated in the past year or so, the Ellen MacArthur foundation – a think-tank that works with business, government and academia to build a framework for a circular economy – recently released a report looking into compostable packaging.
After three years of investigation, the interim report concluded that compostable packaging provides the only genuine solution to ensure food service packaging, including coffee cups, is diverted from landfill.
Here in Australia, BioPak recently signed an agreement with one of the big four banks, which has converted all employee food service outlets in their head office building to collect compostable food packaging. And we have launched a national program to encourage cafes and other venues to put our compostable cups and packaging into special bins, which will be collected and recycled into compost.
BioPak is committed to doing the right thing, designing, making and distributing food packaging that is sourced from renewable materials, which means contributing to a sustainable life cycle – rather than packaging that has a single use, before it ends up at the local tip.
In a true circular economy, our ultimate objective is zero material going to landfill.
It’s an ambitious goal but one that we believe is achievable. All we need if for our politicians and business leaders to start paying attention, not just in Victoria but nationally.