The Australasian recycling label and its impact on the commingled bin


May 17, 2019

Tags: Recycling

Updated 15 October 2020

Many Australians diligently recycle their packaging waste but figuring out which products to recycle can be confusing at times. To make the rules clearer, a new nationally consistent label has been created.

The Australasian Recycling Label (ARL), developed by Planet Ark, PREP Design and the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO), shows what parts of product packaging can be placed in the commingled recycling bin, and what should go to general waste. It’s already being used on packaging in supermarkets across the country with the support of leading organisations like Nestle, Unilever and Woolworths.

Since launching in 2018, more than 270 businesses have agreed to adopted the label, and the next few years should see even more companies using the label on their products.

Federal Environment Minister Melissa Price launched the label at the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation’s Towards 2025 event in Melbourne. “It provides people with easy-to-understand recycling information when they need it most, in those few seconds when they are deciding what bin the package goes in,” she said.

Adrian Cullen, Woolworth’s Sustainability Manager explained how the company is using the label on Woolworths branded products. “On some of our ready meals range, there’s a tray, it’s covered on top with a sheet of plastic, and it might come with a cardboard collar,” Adrian explained. “So (the new label) will probably tell the customer that the tray is recyclable, the plastic sheet on top would need to be torn off and that would go into the general waste, and the collar made of cardboard would then also be recycled.”

How to read the label

The ARL uses three categories to represent:

• What can be recycled in the commingled bin
• What to place in the general waste bin
• What can be possibly recycled but should be checked for further instructions or with council

Recyclable items: This means that the packaging is likely to be cardboard or rigid plastic and should be clean of food and placed in the commingled recycling bin.

Conditionally recyclable items: These items can possibly be recycled but should be checked for further instructions below the label or with council for local recycling options.

Not recyclable items: These are items such as soft plastic wrappers or film that is not recyclable and should be disposed of in the general waste bin.

Why the recycling label is useful

Contamination continues to be a risk to commingled recycling and confusion over what products can and cannot be recycled is a major contributor. Cleanaway has been working with our municipal, commercial and industrial customers to improve the quality of recycling in the commingled bin.

China’s National Sword policy to increase the threshold of acceptable contamination on imports created greater urgency around improved recycling quality.

We surveyed Australian consumers on our social media channels and discovered that most Australians understand the basics of recycling, but are confused about more complex questions around the different types of materials and how to treat them for recycling

At Cleanaway, we believe that simple and effective recycling information delivered at the point where waste decisions are made are likely to have the most impact on positive bin behaviour. With less contamination and better quality recycling, recovered materials have better market value because they are in a better condition to be used in the manufacture of new products.

What more is being done to improve waste management in Australia?

The Australian Environment Minister has announced national packaging targets to support the Federal Government’s commitment to make 100% of all packaging to be recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025.

To achieve these targets, industry-wide collaboration between key stakeholders and greater investment in waste sorting and processing infrastructure will be necessary to support the domestic recycling market.

APCO Chief Executive Brooke Donnelley said, “We need to address the use of recycled content, packaging being recycled or composted, and what materials are unnecessary or problematic.”

Cleanaway’s Footprint 2025 roadmap is committed to ensuring we have the right infrastructure in place to maximise resource recovery and optimise the quality of recycled material. Cleanaway’s  state-of-the-art Material Recovery Facility (MRF) in Perth which is capable of sorting eight waste streams, and our container sorting facility in Eastern Creek is custom-made to count, sort and process more than 250,000 plastic, aluminium, steel, and LPB containers per hour.

Through our partnership with key waste and recovery industry associations like the Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) and the National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC), we’re lending a strong voice to discussions about the future of waste management by advocating for best practices and harmonisation of legislation across Australia.

Want to improve your recycling? Learn the basics in our National Recycling Week page, packed with tips, trivia and resources for better recycling outcomes.

Visit Planet Ark’s website for more information about the Australasian Recycling Label.

Contact us today for more information about how we make a sustainable future possible for all Australians.