Australia's high density polyethylene milk bottle industry has committed to achieving a 50 percent national recycling rate by 2000.
The commitment was one of four industry-specific recycling agreements endorsed recently by the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council in Brisbane.
The agreements, which also cover Australia's newspaper, waste paper and steel can markets, are voluntary, and there are no penalties for failing to reach them.
Peter Slane, commercial affairs manager of Melbourne-based Kemcor Australia Pty. Ltd., the country's major supplier of HDPE bottles, said HDPE is becoming increasingly popular for packaging milk in Australia, with more than 500 million bottles used annually. He said about 40 percent of Australia's HDPE milk bottles currently are recycled, following the introduction of various state government recycling agreements in recent years.
However, the ANZECC agreement is significant because it is the first time there has been a national, coordinated approach to improving HDPE bottle recycling levels, Kemcor's Slane said.
``The agreement is voluntary, but we see it as important and something we want to do,'' he said. ``It is a change for our industry to improve recycling ourselves, rather than have changes legislated on us.''
Kemcor signed the ANZECC agreement in conjunction with Australia's largest HDPE bottle recycling company, Melbourne-based Full Cycle Plastics Pty. Ltd., and the country's major dairy companies, National Foods Ltd. and Dairyfarmers Australian Co-operative Foods Ltd., both of Sydney, and Brisbane-based QUF Industries Ltd.
Slane would not say how much it will cost the HDPE milk bottle industry to meet the recycling commitment, but said there will be ``considerable investment'' from all companies involved. He said a major focus of the agreement is improving community and school recycling education through literature, displays and expositions. The companies also have committed to a new focus on streamlined, lightweight product design and improving the effectiveness and efficiency of collection systems.
Gavin Williams, chief executive officer of the Melbourne-based Packaging Council of Australia, said agreements for other specific plastic packaging sectors are being negotiated.