A deep dive into Circular Plastics Australia and collaboration at the AIP Conference

By Conal O’Neill

The final panel discussion for the AIP Conference featured a conversation between the partners in the Circular Plastics Australia initiative. Pact Group sustainability executive general manager Andrew Smith presented on the program and moderated the discussion with Coca Cola Europacific Partners chief procurement and sustainability officer Sarah Cook, Cleanaway head of M&A Andrej Rakow and Asahi sustainability group head Kirsten Sturzaker.

The conversation focussed on the impact potential of Circular Plastic Australia’s new recycling plant as well as the power of collaborative relationships between competitive brands.

“We are talking about building a new industry” Smith said, referring to the group’s joint venture and facility in Albury that will recycle up to 20,000 tons of PET bottles. “You can’t do this on your own. It doesn’t matter what business you’re in. Whether you’re at the big end of town or the small.”

Cook noted that “we absolutely compete in store” but that the opportunity to collaborate provided value for the industry at large and that while the existing infrastructure was “inefficient” as the industry was ambitious about what could be achieved in terms of sustainability goals and business outcomes.

Sturzaker added that while the recycled PET products would come at a cost premium it made long-term commercial sense to invest in “building a local circular economy.”

Providing some perspective from the resource management sector, Rakow commented on the need for “harmonisation” of the materials recovery facilities (MRFs) across the hundreds of LGAs in Australia, and that the efficiency of kerbside collection systems still needed to be addressed.

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