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Report says packaging needs clearer labels

The Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR) has published a report discussing the standard of environmental labelling on packaging in Australia. The report has identified something that the Australian Packaging Covenant (APCO) and its partners at Planet Ark and PREP Design hav recognised – that Australia needs a clear, concise and evidenced based label placed on every product and packaging type sold into the Australian market.

Report findings 
The report’s findings were developed using a random audit of products found on supermarket shelves. Its findings include:

  • 88 per cent of all packaging components are recyclable (this is consistent with APCO data)
  • 40 per cent of products contain some form of recycling labelling instruction
  • 23 epr cent of products on supermarket shelves contain the Australasian Recycling Label

The ARL Program is growing rapidly and tracking well compared to similar programs being implemented globally. As of May 2020, 402 APCO Members (27 per cent of the total APCO Membership) have joined the ARL Program, including many of Australia’s major household brands and retailers. In comparison, the United States’ How2Recycle Program (which began in 2012), reported 225 brand owner and retailer members across North America in 2019. Meanwhile the UK’s OPRL Program (which launched in 2009) reported 500 members in 2020.

This year the program was also recognised internationally as a world-leading consumer education initiative in a report from the UN Environment Programme, commended for its clarity, reliability and accessibility.

The ARL – a nationally consistent solution  
The ARL Program has been free and available for all APCO Members since 2018 and APCO is looking forward to seeing the ARL on every packaging format as the Program grows over the coming years.  Through the APCO Membership model, the Program is freely available to approximately 80% of the current supply chain, and as the Program develops and grows, we welcome anyone interested in the work to participate.

Labelling is one of the critical success factors to support the delivery of the 2025 National Packaging Targets. It is also one of APCO’s priority actions under the Federal Government’s 2019 National Waste Policy Action Plan (2.14 – Improve consumer information to increase recycling rates and improve the quality of materials in kerbside recycling collection through the Australasian Recycling Label).  

How APCO is building the Program  
The implementation of the ARL Program is a five-year journey and we will continue to invest significantly into building an evidence-based, trusted labelling Program. This includes:

  • Providing transparent administrative and governance functions for the Program through the Marketing Advisory Committee and Technical Advisory Committees
  • Building consumer awareness and interest in the label. The Program’s 2019 Benchmarking research found 48 per cent of consumers currently claim to recognise the label, while 60% per cent are either ‘extremely’ to ‘very’ interested in knowing more about the label
  • Building awareness of the Program with communications and education: In 2019 the ARL was featured in 470 media articles – including Sunrise, Sky News, ABC Breakfast, The Conversation and The Project. In 2020 APCO will be delivering its new National Consumer Education Campaign in partnership with Planet Ark to continue to build the Program’s profile.

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