NSW Environment Minister Mark Speakman (right) with Richard Henfrey, Chief Operating Officer of Blackmores, launching the Australian Recycling Labell

The Last Word: New Label Signposts Australians To Better Recycling

Planet Ark has launched the Australian Recycling Label to promote better recycling at source in Australia, along with a tool to help packaging designers work out recyclable materials .

Contamination is the Kryptonite for recycling, as the saying goes.

For materials recovery facilities to operate efficiently, good recycling is vital. If it’s sorted correctly when it leaves home or businesses, it’s easier to handle and process to market.

At many an industry conference platform, speakers emphasise
 that public education is the key 
to better recycling and, therefore, more commercially-viable ways of recovering used products.

Until recently, much of this education has fallen to local councils or some of the larger environmental solutions companies, who run community and schools education programs.

With very little fanfare, however, a new initiative to promote better recycling at source has been launched in Australia.

Planet Ark has designed the Australian Recycling Label, which it launched with the New South Wales Environment Minister, Mark Speakman, to coincide with National Recycling Week in November.

Two-pronged scheme

The Australian Recycling Label is the consumer-facing part of a two-pronged scheme, which is powered by the Packaging Recyclability Evaluation Portal (PREP), also developed by Planet Ark.

The PREP is a world-first assessment tool that helps packaging designers for consumer products determine whether or not their containers or wrapping can be ‘recyclable’ in Australian kerbside bins.

Developed with financial support from the Australian Packaging Covenant, the PREP is the result of three years of extensive consultation with fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) brand owners, local councils, resource recovery businesses and stakeholders throughout the broader Australian packaging supply chain.

At the heart of the PREP innovation
is software that provides a packaging recyclability assessment, which takes into account the design considerations of a packaging item, like size, shape and materials. It lets designers test different packaging configurations to increase the likelihood that they will be recycled at the kerbside.

The outcome is a recycling label to guide consumers about how to dispose of the packaging.

How it works

The new Australian Recycling Label uses a simple illustration of the mobius loop.

It works by showing three symbols: what can be placed in a kerbside recycling bin and what should be placed in landfill waste bin. The third symbol is a ‘maybe’, depending on what the local council accepts.

For example, it may identify some parts, like a bottle, as recyclable
and others, like the lid, as not recyclable. It will also provide instructions for trickier elements like aluminium foil, which needs to be ‘scrunched’ to be recyclable.

Minister Speakman said the new label would help to take the guesswork out of what bin to use when disposing of waste,

Two of Australia’s largest companies, Blackmores and Officeworks, have adopted the new label for their products. Nine major FMCG companies are now using the PREP to assess the recyclability of 400 packaging products.

The PREP was also a finalist for the Innovator of the Year category in the national 2015 Banksia Foundation Sustainability Awards.

With the growing commitment of FMCG companies to adopt the PREP tool to create these labels
for their packaging, the future looks encouraging for reduced contamination at Australia’s MRFs.

More information about these Planet Ark-led initiatives is available online at www.arl.org.au and www.prep.org.au.