There has been a distinct barrier occurring between Brand Owners and packaging professionals in discussions surrounding recyclability and flexible packaging. The lack of supporting waste infrastructure in Australia has proven challenging for recovering soft plastics, which in turn hinders the ability for packaging manufacturers to influence stakeholders in making the switch to single-polymer packaging. In addition to pricing challenges for procuring appropriate packaging materials and adapting existing production lines to accommodate recyclable materials, it has left many brands incapable of changing their current packaging specifications.
Until this point, the only collection avenue for soft plastic recycling in Australia has been drop-off points within major supermarket chains, which are reliant on consumers themselves collecting and delivering their own soft plastic waste back to these locations. This current system, run by REDcycle, accepts soft plastic materials that have 70%> of a polyolefin polymer as a primary material (with up to 30% of the packaging weight permitted to use secondary polymer types).
Brand Owners have been able to utilise this system to a great extent, taking advantage of the <30% portion of packaging weight to provide a barrier layer for their products. This has been an avenue for moving packaging towards sustainable structures, with minimal to no cost impact, in comparison to the more complex task of attempting 100% polyolefin structures and eliminating a secondary polymer types altogether.
In the eye of Brand Stakeholders, there has been no viable reason for the use of fully recyclable structures without a kerb side recycling initiative for soft plastics, as both 70% and 100% polyolefin packaging formats were being disposed of in the same way, and in the same locations- it has been reclamation without discrimination.
The introduction of the Roll ‘n’ Recycle® program was the much-needed ignition point for moving Brand Owners towards committing to 100% polyolefin structures for compatible products. The ability for these structures to be rolled into semi-rigid formats allows them to be accepted through household recycling collection and current manual recycling processes, which is a huge step forward in allowing recycling accessibility and ease to end consumers. The addition of Roll ‘n’ Recycle® as a complementary service to the REDcycle program creates a comprehensive recycling infrastructure for soft plastics across large portions of the market, and brings great value to brands utilising recyclable, mono-polymer packaging structures.