A new sustainability project from the Endeavour Group and the Independent Brewers Association is aiming to help breweries and customers reduce and reuse plastic waste from beer packaging.
The trial initiative, which brings together the IBA, retailer Endeavour Group, recycling giant Visy and East Coast Canning will help reuse and recycle Paktech can handles by bringing in customer return points at BWS and Dan Murphy’s stores.
Endeavour has implemented a ‘Brewery Buddy’ and ‘Adopt a Store’ schemes, so breweries can deliver beer direct to a local store and pick up new Paktechs at the same time. Any Paktechs that cannot be reused will be taken away by Visy to be melted down and reused, ideally as other Paktechs, although this is still in its early stages.
“Like the way you take your plastic bags back to Coles or Woolies, there is a lot of consumer demand to return Paktech clips,” explained James Perrin, head of the IBA’s sustainability group and sustainability manager at Stone & Wood.
“They’re not recyclable, they go to landfill, so the IBA is partnering with Endeavour, Dan Murphy’s, Visy and East Coast Canning to trial returnable bins in Dan Murphy’s stores so consumers can drop off Paktechs and participating breweries can collect and reuse them.
“It’s just a trial at that stage, but it means the breweries can also save by not having to buy new Paktechs, and any that can’t be reused will be taken by Visy.”
Diarmaid O’Mordha, Endeavour Group quality and sustainability manager who spearheaded the project, said that it’s an initiative that has been in the works for some time.
“Many beer lovers are familiar with the can clips that hold four and six-packs of brews together, but many don’t realise that the clips are made of such sturdy material that they can be reused more than 50 times before being recycled and made into new clips,” he said.
“Can clips are a great option for a circular economy, but there have been no multi-state recycling options available for customers where they can return the clips so many end up in landfill, which is why Endeavour Group has initiated an industry-wide reuse and recycling scheme.”
It’s not the first time breweries have attempted to deal with this aspect of packaging waste, with Bright Brewery launching a similar project earlier this year, but it is one of the most ambitious so far, with trials in BWS and Dan Murphy’s stores in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
Chris Kelly of East Coast explained that the canners would help with the logistics of the project.
“We have joined this project in a ‘back up’ capacity to begin with. We will deal with any overflow of handles that are not collected from stores in a timely manner,” Kelly said.
“We will sort, rehabilitate, and re-sell at a lower cost to ensure even the unloved handles see some circularity. Anything broken or unsellable will go back to a Visy HDPE plant to be processed and sent back to Paktech to make more handles.”
Kelly explained he reached out to Diarmaid O’Mordha at Endeavour Group as East Coast was thinking about automating and reusing Paktechs in a circular model and needed scaling help.
“It so happened that Diarmaid was deep in the process of developing this program and so we came onboard to help.”
The problem with Paktechs
The IBA’s James Perrin explained that while Paktechs are made of recyclable, they’re not often recycled in Australia, which is why the team wanted to get a recycling company on board.
“Once we built up enough steam with Endeavour, IBA Paktech etc, then Visy came on board and we can see the industry needs it,” he explained.
There are currently alternatives such as plant-based pulp beer can rings which are biodegradable, but they do not travel well
“As far as I’m familiar with them, they’re expensive and anecdotally they’re really fiddly and hard to use. [Any benefits are] offset because you have to ship them from the other side of the country and they’re probably more resource-intensive to use.
“The whole industry wants to move away from packaging if they can, it’s not just Paktech and labels, it’s shrink wrap and pallet wrap. Brewers can minimise plastic on their products, but we’re shipping everything in plastic wrap. There’s a whole lot of plastic in the supply chain.”
Kelly of East Coast Canning said the same, and that it’s not just the brewing industry looking to use less plastic.
“Everyone needs to do their part. It’s time. In competitive business environments, it’s so easy to look at sustainability, and environmental issues or endeavours and ask “can we afford this?”.
“It’s as cliché as hell, but I truly believe that the answer to that question is “can we afford not to?” We will be putting our money where our mouth is in months and years to come, and it’s a lofty thought, but I think literally every business in Australia and the world needs to.”