As the Australasian Recycling Label celebrates its first anniversary, APCO CEO Brooke Donnelly reflects on the success of the recycling education program to date and shares what to expect next for the campaign.
Australia is a country of proud and passionate recyclers. Yet research consistently demonstrates that Australians want more information about how to recycle correctly. A Global Recycling Day report developed by Nestle and Planet Ark found that while an overwhelming majority of Australians (96 per cent) are eager to recycle, 94 per cent of people still put one or more non-recyclable items in their recycling bin. And with more than 200 Australian recycling labels currently in circulation, it’s easy to understand why consumers don’t always get it right.
To tackle this challenge, in 2018 Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) joined forces with Planet Ark and Packaging Recycling Evaluation Portal (PREP) Design to launch the Australasian Recycling Label (ARL) – a nationwide labelling scheme to help consumers better recognise how to recycle products effectively.
The evidence-based system provides simple instructions about how to correctly dispose of each individual packaging component when people need it most, in those few seconds when they are deciding what bin their package goes in.
It’s been one year since we delivered the program to our APCO members and the scheme has much to celebrate, with overwhelming support from both government and industry. In September 2018, the Hon Melissa Price, Minister for the Environment, officially launched the program at an APCO industry event in Melbourne. I’m delighted to confirm there are now more than 200 Australian businesses committed to the scheme. A huge thank you to our industry champions who have adopted the label and are leading the way for other businesses in their sector.
A comprehensive program
The true power of the ARL lies in its evidence-based approach. For a business to adopt the label, they first need to join the Packaging Recycling Label Program, a free scheme available to all APCO members, and measure their packaging’s recyclability using PREP. It’s a unique analysis tool that enables companies to assess whether packaging is recyclable in the kerbside system or the REDcycle program.
To ensure PREP’s determinations are as accurate as possible, in 2018 APCO formed the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), a group of experts from across the value chain in recycling and packaging.
Working in partnership with the TAC is the Marketing Advisory Committee, a team representing businesses, retailers, recycling industry and local and state government.
The next phase of the label
In 2019, we will be taking the ARL to its next phase with two new updates. The first is a recycled content label to help drive consumer awareness and demand for recycled content products. The second is a compostability label to provide much needed clarity and leadership in the compostable/biodegradable space.
We have a range of projects underway to support these updates and work through the challenges involved. These include trials to confirm which certified organic materials can be processed in Australia’s organics recycling facilities. This is alongside a research paper to understand best practices for recycled content labels internationally and consultation activities to ensure robust stakeholder feedback.
I’d particularly like to commend Unilever for its leadership in the recycled content space, partnering with Planet Ark and APCO to lead consumer testing around the integration of a post-consumer recycled (PCR) call out within the ARL. These findings will be integral to the roll out of the ARL across PCR packaging.
Part of a bigger picture
The ARL is one part of a much bigger program of work currently being delivered by APCO and our partners to bring to life the 2025 National Packaging Targets. Education is a critical piece of the puzzle, and the program will help drive greater industry participation and transparency about their packaging recyclability.
To keep driving the success of the label, we need engagement and support from right across the supply chain.
CEO, Unilever Australia & New Zealand
“As a consumer goods company, we are acutely aware of the consequences of a linear take-make-dispose model and we want to change it. It is clear that urgent action is needed on multiple fronts.
We want to help build a circular economy in which we not only use less plastic, but also ensure the plastic we do use can be reused, recycled or composted. We are proud of our landmark rHDPE move and for being one of the first companies to voluntarily sign up to the ARL, but no business can create a circular economy in isolation. Creating a local market and demand for all types of recycled plastic is critical and heavy lifting is needed from all players involved – suppliers, packaging converters, brand owners, policy makers and retailers, collectors, sorters and recyclers.”
Packaging Specialist, Nestle
“Nestlé made a commitment to implement the ARL on all locally made products by 2020 as it fully aligns with our ambition to have 100 per cent recyclable or reusable packaging by 2025.
Clear labelling on our products plays a really important role in helping make sure our consumers don’t waste their waste, but feel confident in what they can recycle.
Implementing the ARL, while challenging at times, has resulted in many positives for Nestlé, largely centred around making us think outside the box and be more innovative with packaging design.
I encourage other organisations to adopt the scheme. I have no doubt they will also find the process brings forth many positives for them.”
Recycling Label Program Manager, Planet Ark Environmental Foundation
“There has never been a better, nor more urgent, time for brands to adopt the Australasian Recycling Label. Research shows that the first place consumers look for packaging disposal information is the package itself. If we want to collectively succeed in processing the country’s packaging, it is vital to provide accurate disposal information that reflects the infrastructure that we have.”
To find out how you can join other leading businesses in the Packaging Recycling Label Program, contact APCO at packagingcovenant.org.au.