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The growth of the Australasian Recycling Label on-pack

Every week when I receive my grocery delivery, I am starting to notice that more packs are including the Australasian Recycling Label (ARL) and I can’t wait for the day that it is on all consumer-facing packaging. I opened a pack of pork steaks the other night and followed the ARL instructions and I have to say it was the most intuitive pack I have experienced in a long time. The ARL made it easy to understand which bin I was placing each component in.
What is the Australasian Packaging Recycling Label (ARL) Program? The ARL provides designers and brand owners with the tools to inform responsible packaging technologists and designers and helps consumers to understand how to correctly dispose of packaging. Led by APCO, in collaboration with Planet Ark and PREP Design, the program aims to reduce consumer confusion, increase recycling recovery rates, and contribute to cleaner recycling streams. The two elements of the program are the Packaging Recyclability Evaluation Portal (PREP) and the ARL.
Packaging Recyclability Evaluation Portal (PREP)
What makes the program unique is the PREP Tool component, which provides packaging technologists and designers with the correct information on whether their packaging format is recyclable in the majority of household kerbside collection systems and then how it will be handled and recovered by the Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs). The PREP Tool also indicates if there are other closed-loop recycling systems that the majority (80 per cent) of the population has access. i.e. “soft plastics”, which can be returned to a Coles or Woolworths store via the REDcycle program.
The PREP tool then works hand-in-hand with the second part of the process which is the ARL program. The ARL symbol represents how the MRF recognises materials, inks, weight, shape, adhesives and how each component will behave in the recycling ecosystem in Australia and New Zealand. Using the datasets from the PREP tool the ARL then identifies the correct symbols to use on-pack for all components of the product e.g.: lid, tray, cap, bottle, box, film etc. It is not possible for a piece of packaging to have the Australasian Recycling Label without a PREP assessment that backs up disposal claims.
The ARL is an evidence-based standardised labelling system for Australia and New Zealand that provides clear and consistent on-pack recycling information to inform consumers of the correct disposal method. As packaging is made up of separable components, each with differing recyclability, the ARL will identify each item as either recyclable, conditionally recyclable or not recyclable. The ARL is designed to ensure that consumers can understand the true recyclability of all packaging components that are disposed of in Australia and New Zealand.
The ARL symbols used on-pack in turn help consumers understand which packaging components belong in the recycling bin, or the general rubbish bin, or which parts should be returned in Australia to a Coles or Woolworths store through the soft plastic collection bins.
Consumer education
There are many brands busy updating their artwork to incorporate the ARL on pack, and I would encourage everyone to consider a strong consumer-facing marketing campaign to let everyone know that you are adding the ARL on-pack, why, and what the benefits are.
Showcase the use of ARL on your packaging as a part of your sustainable packaging journey.
Start talking to your family and friends about the ARL and encouraging your own community to look out for the ARL on-pack and teach them the benefits of the new symbols. The more consumers see the ARL and understand why it needs to be on all packaging, the better the acceptance will be across Australia and New Zealand.
Once consumers become more aware of the ARL symbols on packaging, they will gain confidence in the program and recognise that the labels are an important link to the current recycling capabilities of Australia and New Zealand. In turn, the use of ARL symbols on-pack should encourage consumers to become more active in disposing of waste correctly, which will limit contamination in our waste streams and keep recyclable material away from landfill.
The AIP has also developed a number of training courses that will greatly assist your sustainable packaging journey including Tools to Help you Meet the 2025 National Packaging Targets: PREP and ARL, Introduction to Sustainable Packaging Design, Lifecycle Assessment Tools for Sustainable Packaging Design, Flexible Packaging: Now and Into the Future, Plastics Technology: Introduction to Polymers and Recycling, How to Implement Sustainable Packaging Guidelines into your Business, Suitable, Functional and Sustainable Labelling and The Future of Bioplastics and Compostable Packaging, which are run on a regular basis across Australia, New Zealand and Asia.

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