President's Report August 2020

It is now 5 months since COVID19 was declared an international pandemic and the first cases were starting to appear in Australia. During this period, we’ve seen an agile and adaptable industry that’s strictly followed medical advice and government restrictions, and this has allowed us to continue to operate.

Many businesses have developed news ways of marketing and selling our products during incredibly difficult trading conditions. Workplaces have modified their processes to incorporate new hygiene practices that have kept workers safe.

While most States have returned to lower levels of COVID normalcy, Victoria is going through an incredibly difficult period and our thoughts and best wishes are with our friends and colleagues as they battle with Stage 4 lockdown. GIA and all State Member Associations have been in touch with Nursery and Garden Industry Victoria (NGIV) to provide support and offer assistance if required.

NGIV have been front and centre in discussions with the Victorian Government since the pandemic was declared and this, together with efforts by GIA in ensuring the industry nationally is considered essential, has allowed the industry in Victoria to continue to trade. These relationships are carefully nurtured and shaped over many years through advocacy, education and events and have delivered when it was most needed. Well done to the Board of the NGIV!

In the portfolio area of Sustainability, as part of GIA’s agreed Strategic Plan, we will set ambitious waste reduction and emissions targets that will drive industry innovation and support our environmental credentials. For an industry that delivers positively on so many environmental outcomes, we do have a waste problem and this needs to be addressed.

The conversation has already started with polypropylene (PP) being the focus of conference presentations and dedicated industry workshops. PP is used extensively in the industry in the form of plastic pots, trays, labels, stakes and more. Sadly, despite consumers including them for recycling, these items mostly end up in landfill. The primary reason for this is detection scanners at council/community recycling centres cannot detect black PP. We need to fix this waste problem.

GIA has joined a working group of industry representatives who are seeking to determine how the industry can better manage the use of PP packaging. Led by GIA, Garden City Plastics (GCP) and the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO), the working group has been examining packaging and recycling options. Plastic waste and recycling failures have been gaining media attention, so it is timely for GIA to move as quickly as we can in developing a sustainable model for our industry.

Our situation is not unique. A lot of work has been undertaken in the UK which can inform the Australian industry. The UK Horticultural Trades Association, to meet recycling obligations, has introduced a “Taupe Pot” which is designed to be kerbside recyclable and will replace traditional black plastic pots. It was a collaborative effort from stakeholders in the UK who recognised, the lighter the colour of PP, the easier it was for scanners to sort the item. There are other options of course, and this will need to be balanced against cost and the use of existing recycling systems.

The next step for GIA is to form the Sustainability Committee, a sub-committee of the Board which will be a balanced team of allied traders, retailers, and production representatives. GIA will soon release the Terms of Reference for the committee and call for expressions of interest. This will be incredibly important work as it will also drive R&D and investment.

The Committee will also consider waste issues of non pp5 plastics and paper but will also look to other areas of sustainability such as energy, water and ethical practices.

The Federal Government is encouraging industries to address these areas, so we need to have a strong plan, be part of the national conversation and lead the solution.

Glenn Fenton
GIA President