Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation

Engagement with the wine sector.

Due to criteria which relates to business requirements for those above $5millon turnover, a large portion of Australia’s large and medium wine businesses are members of the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO). However, many small and micro wine businesses are not, as these requirements are unrealistic for small businesses who’s impacts on packaging related waste are negligible in the large scheme of things. Many of these small producers may not have even heard of APCO, at least until now.

Australian Grape & Wine has received a number of enquiries this month from small wine producers who have been contacted by APCO.  The letters that are being received throughout the sector are aimed at encouraging membership of APCO, noting that businesses have obligations for which they are ‘required to take action’ and that any ‘inaction’ by producers will mean that “APCO will be obliged to refer your business the relevant regulatory Authority”.

While we do not support the aggressive, and often disconnected approach taken by APCO to engage with small wine producers in order to expand its membership, we do support and encourage efforts to drive sustainable packaging and waste management to ensure the sector understands our obligations.

APCO operate in a co-regulatory arrangement underpinned by the National Environment Protection (Used Packaging Materials) Measure 2011 (NEPM). Businesses who distribute or sell consumer packaged products have obligations under the NEPM if they meet certain criteria. These criteria and the obligations are enforced by state based jurisdictional agencies (i.e. your state EPA).  

It is not up to APCO to determine if your business has obligations under the NEPM – it is up to you to understand if and how this legislation applies to your business.

Businesses who receive these letters from APCO and are unsure what to do, we recommend the following options:

  1. Take a look at the Australian Grape & Wine submission on the review of the co-regulatory arrangement under the NEPM to understand where our uncertainties lie.
  1. Review the NEPM and the relevant state based jurisdictional policy (in the state where your head office is located) to assess if your business has obligations.
  1. If you believe your business does have obligations, your options are:
    • Become a signatory to APCO; or
    • Comply with the relevant EPA obligations for your business.

If you determine your business has obligations, it is important that you understand what your exposure is before committing to either. Both have similar requirements, but APCO is generally the option producers choose due to a number of tools and resources available to assist businesses. Noting that APCO membership is a long-term, ongoing commitment with annual fees, reporting and action plan implementation requirements. APCO membership may be voluntary but non-compliance or withdrawal from the Covenant will be publicly notified on APCOs website.

If you believe you do not have obligations, we suggest contacting your state-based EPA to explain this and discuss. It may also be advisable to contact your State Wine Association to see if and how other small wine producers in your state are addressing the issue. If the EPA is satisfied your business does not have obligations, you can then advise APCO of this in reply to the letter.

Finally, a number of businesses have asked if their Sustainable Winegrowing Australia (SWA) membership or certification covers them for this compliance? The short answer is – not at this stage. We have raised packaging with the Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI) and the value provided by modules which seek to meet producers’ obligations under the NEPM, but as these are not yet completely aligned, SWA membership or certification does not meet these obligations. We will continue to work with AWRI and Wine Australia to seek additional elements that may be appropriate for future versions of SWA.

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