REPRODUCED BY KIND PERMISSION OF AUSTRALIAN INSTITUTE OF PACKAGING
If back peddling is good for the environment then the Federal Minister for Environment, Heritage and the Arts Peter Garrett over the second weekend in March [when Victorians were enjoying high temperatures and a long weekend] contributed negatively to Australia's carbon emissions.
Floated as the price to be paid to accede with Garrett's demand that plastic shopping bags be phased out by the end of the year a dollar a bag was the "top bid" in the popular press. [Labor policy is to phase out plastic shopping bags by 'economic means".] Garrett quickly came out with denials which are available for all to read and judge the "pollie-speak".
All of this was happening when Robin Tuckerman FAIP principal of RT Consulting was girding up his loins to present the third in a series of packaging education seminars designed by Australian Institute of Packaging [AIP] and presented on behalf of Australian Industry Group [AIG] at the behest of the Victorian Government to deliver the Industry Skills Advisers 'initiative which aims to develop skills within the packaging industry
Robin's presentation was entitled "Demystifying the National Packaging Covenant", a subject in which he is well qualified. Robin is particularly interested in environmental and sustainability issues and has been involved in developing and implementing successful Action Plans and Reports since the original Covenant was introduced in July 1999.
He is also very familiar with the new strengthened Covenant and has assisted a number of organisations in establishing base line data, writing Reports and Action Plans, and providing in house training. All have passed the assessment requirements of the National Packaging Covenant [NPC] Secretariat with one winning the Action Challenge Award at the inaugural Packaging Evolution Awards in 2006.
The National Packaging Covenant is the means by which Australian Industry is pursuing Government backed self-regulation to achieve targets rather than legislation introduced in other parliaments. European Union [EU] countries have targets set under EU directive 94/62 EC dealing with waste minimisation and recycling that are backed by legislation.
In July 2005, the Environmental Protection & Heritage Council (EPHC) agreed to the proposal for a strengthened National Packaging Covenant, for a term of five years. The strengthened Covenant incorporates a number of changes designed to introduce more quantifiable performance measures and more rigorous compliance processes.
Fourteen companies were represented and covered the spectrum of industry sectors obligated to sign onto NPC Mark II. As participants explained their presence it became obvious that amalgamation of companies, which continues unabated, has a marked effect on NPC as executives are replaced. Two examples were provided where NPC involvement was cancelled by executive decision without reference down the line. One CEO is reported as saying "I just bin letters from people I don't know". Several are now addressing the amalgamation of many companies that were already signatories. Twenty-eight amalgamations took the prize for the day!
But it is not all doom and gloom as many positive reasons for attendance went straight to the heart of NPC. The desire to commence with the correct packaging rather than try to offset at the end of use; and a mission to have all packaging to be recyclable were quite positive.
Reasons advanced why companies join, [over 650 have] include: -
• Broader environmental commitment and responsibility
• Save wasted materials, energy, resources, time and money
• Comply with increasing demand for eco-friendly packaging
• Avoid potential penalties from state governments under NEPM
• Be part of a successful voluntary approach that will avoid legislation and much more costly fees
• Help build a more sustainable company
• Save waste packaging going to landfill
• Become a 'good corporate citizen"
Robin's experience is that companies that signed onto NPC declared improved triple bottom-line business results and in all instances the benefits outweigh the costs. A number of examples were detailed and are often posted on signatories' or the NPC web site.
If your company supplies raw materials to packaging manufacturers or is a packaging manufacturer then you should be a signatory to NPC. If you purchase packaging that becomes part of the supply chain or produce packaging waste then membership is also recommended.
The half day discussion session covered the salient points of NPC including costs and benefits, the key performance indicators used and the environmental impact of the scheme. This included a summary of the recycling targets set under the revised document----- NPC Mark II. Basically industry has to increase the recycling rate from 48% to 65% without increasing landfill above 2003 levels. Non "recyclable packaging" has also been listed with 25% of it being mandated to be reused.
Plastics of all types have to improve the recycled rate by 10 or 15% over the life of NPC Mark II. The debate about plastic shopping bags will likely continue for sometime. Shopping bags are subject to Schedule 7 to the Australian Retailers Association Code of Practice for the Management of Plastic Bags which is part of the NPC but has totally different targets to the NPC.
Since NPC Mark II was signed off by EPHC members the Federal Government has changed and alterations have been made in all state and territory cabinets. At the next review no minister that signed off in 2005 will be at the table. If NPC Mark II will get a tick of approval or thumbs down remains to be seen.
Australia is now a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol which details actions needed for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions! NPC Mark II has no mention of the reduction of green house emissions although there are covert implications
AIG is also involved in another initiative to improve skills within the packaging industry. In association with RMIT University and Design Victoria [www.designvic.com ] AIG is promoting a program entitled "How to Profit from Design"
Written by Michael B Halley FAIP
Australian Institute of Packaging www.aipack.com.au
Australian Industry Group www.aigroup.asn.au
Robin Tuckerman email@example.com
Click on photo to enlarge