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Australia slowly shifts to recyclable mandarin packaging

In Australia, the traditional plastic net bags for mandarins are being replaced by recyclable alternatives, a move initiated by major supermarkets and smaller retailers. This transition, while beneficial for the environment, presents varied impacts across communities, particularly in significant citrus-producing areas. Venus Citrus in South Australia's Riverland, for instance, has embraced recyclable packaging for over six years, substituting plastic trays and sleeves with cardboard, despite the higher costs involved. The packaging industry reported a 16% recycling rate for plastics in 2021.

Coles has launched paper bag packaging for its mandarins / Image: Coles.

However, the shift has adversely affected businesses such as Loxton Orana, a Riverland-based producer of plastic net bags for nearly five decades, witnessing a significant decline in demand. The company noted a decrease in orders, attributing it to the higher costs of manual bagging, leading to a pivot towards box packaging by many firms.

Rebecca Gilling, Planet Ark chief executive, emphasized the importance of minimizing unnecessary packaging, noting the potential environmental footprint of alternatives like paper. Nonetheless, she acknowledged the positive aspect of Coles' initiative to replace non-recyclable plastic with recyclable paper bags. Coles, Australia's second-largest supermarket chain, announced the introduction of 100% recyclable paper bags for mandarins, aiming to eliminate approximately 11,700 kilograms of plastic waste annually and projecting sales of over one million paper bags between April and October.


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