16 July 2021

ANZPAC PoPPr Program Update


The Polypropylene (PP) Plant Packaging Recycling (PoPPr) Program is a two-year project to design and implement a national product stewardship scheme for PP plant packaging. The ANZPAC Plastics Pact (ANZPAC), through the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO), has partnered with Greenlife Industry Australia to deliver the project after successfully securing funding through the Australian Government’s National Product Stewardship Investment Fund (NPSIF).

For the purposes of this project, plant packaging includes plant pots, tags, labels, stakes and trays made from PP, the dominant plastic polymer used in Australian horticulture packaging represented by the international Resin Identification Code #5. It is estimated that 15,600 tonnes of PP plant packaging are sold in the Australian market annually. This equates to almost 10% of all PP packaging in Australia. While there is no reliable source of data articulating recovery levels of plant packagingi, the current recycling of PP plant packaging is estimated to be below 1,000 tonnesii.

Research conducted during the development of the business case for establishing the scheme found that while globally there is an increased interest in sustainable plant packaging, there is no single solution suitable for easy adoption in Australia. For this reason, the PoPPr program is considered a seminal project under ANZPAC. With global demand for PP recyclate currently very highiii, the project will provide learning opportunities across the Oceania region for both the collection of horticultural PP and understanding product stewardship frameworks and processes.

There is clear opportunity, desire and an established domestic market in Australia forming the foundation for a product stewardship scheme to operate successfully in this space. With the project seeking to enable the collection of plant packaging for recycling back into new plant packaging, it is firmly aligned with the ANZPAC regional plastic targets and vision of a circular economy for plastic, where it never becomes waste or pollution.

How the PoPPr program will deliver on the ANZPAC regional plastic targets:

Target 1: Eliminate unnecessary and problematic plastic packaging through redesign, innovation and alternative (reuse) delivery models. A national scheme will divert problematic PP from landfill or suboptimal uses. The program may also offer a potential recovery pathway for other PP packaging for an Australian market struggling to meet demand for recycled PP. As the potential for PP to be considered a sustainable product growsiv, so too do the potential sources for collection, including inter alia, textiles and woven fabrics, take away containers, corflute boardv. Further, with several research opportunities identified around importation of PP, carbon black pigment and pot standardisation, a successfully implemented scheme could support innovation and redesign of problematic processes across the ANZPAC region.

Target 2: 100% of plastic packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. An industry closed loop will create a clean supply of PP for processing to new plant packaging, retaining the material at its highest value in the market, addressing challenges particular to the packaging format and building a quantifiable end market for recycled PP across the region.

Target 3: Increase plastic packaging collected and effectively recycled by at least 25% for each geography within the ANZPAC region. An Australian recovery and recycling program will enable easy recovery of used PP plant packaging from a diverse range of plant consumers, including domestic gardeners, landscapers, retailer and production nurseries. Multiple collection pathways are needed to ensure a successful scheme, with each pathway providing a case study for consideration by ANZPAC Members.

Target 4: Average of 25% recycled content in plastic packaging across the region. It is estimated that some plant packaging products in Australia are manufactured using 70-80% recycled contentvi. However, a significant proportion of this recycled content is currently sourced from non-horticultural sources meaning the loop remains open on post-consumer plant packaging. Additionally, there is no mechanism to measure or report on the use of recycled content in horticultural packaging. The product stewardship scheme established under the Program seeks to implement a system to record consumption, reuse and recycling outcomes and report on progress against the targets. Further, it is hoped the scheme will facilitate research and development to address roadblocks to increasing recycled content in plastic packaging, such as plant biosecurity measures, which remain both a global and ANZPAC regional priority.

With the average net saving of CO2 from recycling plastics estimated to be between 1-1.5 tonnes CO2 equivalent per tonne of plasticvii, ANZPAC is supporting a solution for plant packaging that will further enhance the credentials of Australia’s environmentally positive greenlife and plant production sector and make an industry-led contribution to national and international carbon commitments.

For ANZPAC Members, the PoPPr Program represents an opportunity to examine collection challenges around PP and collect insights on integral systems and processes of product stewardship schemes.  Regular updates and relevant learnings will be shared with ANZPAC Members as the project continues. An overview of the PoPPr Program is available for download or for more information on the PoPPr Program or the ANZPAC Plastics Pact, please contact anzpac@apco.org.au

The PoPPr Program has received grant funding from the Australian Government under the National Product Stewardship Investment Fund.

i - Business Case Report for Polypropylene Plant Packaging Recycling (PoPPr) Program (p27). June 2021.
ii - Stakeholder observations collected 2020.

iii - Business Case Report for Polypropylene Plant Packaging Recycling (PoPPr) Program (p21). June 2021.
iv - Thomas, G.P., (2020, October 06). Recycling of Polypropylene (PP). AZoCleantech. Retrieved on July 08, 2021 from https://www.azocleantech.com/article.aspx?ArticleID=240.
Business Case Report for Polypropylene Plant Packaging Recycling (PoPPr) Program (p22). June 2021.
vi - Stakeholder advice. Sustainable Packaging in Horticulture Working Group Meeting. 22 June 2021.
vii - Business Case Report for Polypropylene Plant Packaging Recycling (PoPPr) Program (p6). June 2021.