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STMNA Bioactives: A Supplement Company Navigating the Complexities of Sustainable Packaging

In recent years, the global conversation around sustainability has intensified, shining a spotlight on the environmental impacts of packaging materials. Australia, like many other nations, faces its own unique set of challenges and opportunities in the realm of sustainable packaging. From the closure of vital recycling programs to ambitious national targets, and the reluctance of certain industries to embrace eco-friendly practices, the landscape is both complex and evolving. 

As a small business owner of a supplement company in the health and wellness industry, I’ve experienced firsthand the impacts of changes in recycling infrastructure on our packaging choices. Initially, our Supplement – ‘Healthspan’s’ – refill pouches were packaged in materials that could be recycled through programs like REDcycle, offering reassurance that our packaging waste was being managed properly. However, when the REDcycle closed, our refill pouches became non-recyclable, ending up in landfill, which contradicted our values as a sustainable business. This closure created a significant gap in the infrastructure for recycling soft plastic packaging, leaving consumers and businesses grappling with responsible disposal. 

However, amidst these challenges, there are glimmers of hope. The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) has set national targets to be achieved by 2025. These targets aim to make 100% of Australia’s packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable. While the road to achieving these goals is not without obstacles, they serve as a guiding framework for driving industry-wide change. However, the 2025 targets set by the APCO are particularly ambitious, considering the current lack of industry incentives or regulatory frameworks surrounding packaging. Without clear mandates or financial incentives to drive change, businesses face an uphill battle in transitioning to sustainable packaging practices.

When I started my business two years ago in 2022, I noticed a significant lag in competitor supplement companies embracing eco-friendly packaging practices. Despite the increasing focus on sustainability, organic, non-GMO and clean ingredients, many businesses within our sector have not transitioned away from single-use plastics and non-recyclable materials. The fact that it is extremely difficult for businesses to transition to using sustainable packaging contributes substantially to the growing issue of packaging waste. Recognising this reluctance underscores the urgent need for heightened awareness and incentives to make it more accessible for businesses like mine to adopt more sustainable alternatives.

When I was designing my packaging for the first time, I quickly learnt of the challenges involved in making packaging decisions. Pharmaceutical manufacturers who create our supplement finished product often offer the cheapest, most efficient single-use plastic bottles to save money, given their large minimum order quantities.

Therefore, I had to source all of our own packaging and send it to our manufacturers. Additionally, when I was selecting packaging for STMNA, our supplements have to adhere to rigorous regulatory standards set by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). Longevity is paramount; our packaging must withstand the test of time, often exceeding two years, to uphold supplement quality and efficacy. Originally the compostable options were attractive, but they often degrade after just one year, posing a conundrum for my business striving for both sustainability and durability in our packaging solutions.

I created a supplement to improve people’s health from the inside, highlighting the power that plants and nature can have on longevity, wellbeing and prevention of early ageing and chronic illness. Therefore, it is only an extension of our business that we care about protecting the planet and the environment by using sustainable packaging and clean ingredients.

Despite these challenges we face in Australian packaging. Our latest initiative, Roll’n’Recycle offers a cutting-edge approach to packaging sustainability that aligns perfectly with our values. Roll’n’Recycle will allow our customers to recycle the pouches in their home recycle bin, keeping all of our waste out of landfill. Our glass jars are designed for reuse by pouring the refill pouches inside.

We understand the importance of empowering consumers to actively participate in reducing packaging waste, which is why our implementation of the Roll’n’Recycle system enables easy recycling of pouches in standard home recycle bins, unlike the return-to-store soft plastics that the REDcycle promised. Through our adoption of Roll’n’Recycle, we are proud to contribute to the advancement of sustainable packaging practices in the industry and have packaging that is fully circular, staying well out of landfill.

We hope that people will want to purchase our product because they care about supporting sustainable small business brands.

In highlighting the challenges we face behind the scenes, we hope to inspire other health and wellness businesses to make sustainability their top priority, rather than keeping quiet and not saying or doing anything at all.

In conclusion, the journey towards sustainable packaging in Australia is marked by both hurdles and opportunities. While the closure of vital recycling programs and industry inertia present significant challenges, initiatives like the APCO national packaging targets and innovative solutions like Roll’n’Recycle offer hope for a brighter, more sustainable future. As consumers and businesses alike increasingly prioritise sustainability, it is imperative that we continue to collaborate, innovate, and drive positive change towards a circular economy. Together, we can make a lasting impact and pave the way for a greener, more resilient planet.

Join our waitlist to be the first to know when our new packaging launches and to take part in our journey towards a more sustainable, circular future.

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