Closing the loop on waste

Closing the loop on waste

Large-scale production can create a lot of waste and companies are increasingly having to responsibly manage that. We’ve chosen to front foot this and have introduced a series of day-to-day sustainability initiatives aimed at circulating high value materials, innovating new solutions and designing out waste and emissions across the business.

Rethinking packaging

We started with packaging, replacing the plastic cling film used to protect the aluminum extrusions we send to our manufacturer network with a recyclable paper.  Our initial trial found the alternate material stream was just as good at preventing freight damage, a key part of the trial. This was a good short term solution, however we continue to search for a reusable option. This is when we found wool. 

Wool packaging trials

We are currently trialing the use of New Zealand wool as a replacement for not only the paper but our interleaving, bubble wrap and polystyrene packaging. Wool can be circulated endlessly and that is the aim with this initiative. The idea is that what we send out to our customers, they store in a big wool bag, APL Direct collects it, we sort back at HQ and the cycle starts again. And when it reaches its end of life aesthetically, our suppliers will take the product back, re process it with “virgin” wool and again, the cycle re-commences.  There are other benefits too. Using wool as a packaging solution means underutilised, low-value wool has a purpose and is no longer a waste stream so in turn this is helping to support the New Zealand Wool Industry.

Goodbye plastic pallet wrap

Recognising the need to eliminate wasteful single-use plastic pallet wrap was also on the project list. Our team at sister business PPL worked with Reusa-Wraps to find a reusable pallet cover solution that is secured using velcro.  These covers not only do a better job at keeping our goods contained and protected during shipping, we estimate they will save 203,520 metres of plastic from going to landfill each year.

Reducing single-use

We’ve also been successful in reducing some single-use items. Manufacturers can return the untreated timber wooden bases from the cases we send them, to be reused or repaired and reconditioned if they are damaged. As an incentive, we’ve implemented a deposit-return scheme, rewarding our clients for recycling, with each base used an average eight times before it’s repurposed. Likewise, APL’s manufacturing division has been able to maximise the return and re-use of the cardboard boxes used to deliver hardware.

APL are the only aluminium extruder in Australasia that recycles its scrap directly with a smelter, delivering a dramatic reduction in energy input. We also use steel strapping which we collect back and reuse. It is then used as scrap metal and melted to its original form at the end of its life with us.

Reusable coils

Again through PPL, we have introduced reusable plastic coils, designed and produced in-house for all our coiled products. These are also collected with ease by APL Direct as the coil unscrews in its centre and stacks neatly like traffic cones. In the event they are damaged or broken they can be reground, reprocessed and remade or commercially recycled.

Diverting office waste from landfill

Running alongside these initiatives, we’ve improved how we handle daily waste in our offices, introducing compostable waste bins – eliminating 60% of food scraps and general waste - and separated recycling bins for office staff.  We have also eliminated single-use plastic cups and provided all staff with reusable steel APL drink bottles to refill at water fountains.

It’s a journey

Although we are making good progress, there’s plenty more to be done. We’re aiming for a packaging process that contributes nothing to landfill, with everything either reused, repurposed or recycled. Furthering our efforts to design out waste, we have recently completed a total waste audit across all our sites, plus the sites of two of our manufacturer partners – with more to come. 

We are working to offset emissions wherever possible, and are on a journey with Toitū Envirocare to achieve carbon zero certification and Thinkstep-ANZ to achieve our Environmental Product Declaration. We are however already celebrating our Declared status which we achieved in mid 2021.

It will take time, but we’re committed to this sustainability journey for the long-haul.