The Australasian Recycling Label Program
The Australasian Recycling Label (ARL) Program is an on-pack labelling scheme that is helping consumers to recycle correctly and supporting brand owners to design packaging that is recyclable at end-of-life.
The Program features two key elements:
- The Packaging Recyclability Evaluation Portal (PREP) - an online tool that assesses packaging recyclability in the Australian and New Zealand recovery systems.
- The Australasian Recycling Label – an on-pack label that provides clear and simple instructions about how to recycle all of the separable packaging components.
The Program was developed by APCO in partnership with Planet Ark and PREP Design.
Since launching in 2018, the ARL Program has been adopted by close to 400 organisations, including Woolworths, Coles, Aldi, Campbell Arnott’s, Australia Post, David Jones and Country Road Group, Unilever, Pact Group, Kimberley-Clarke Australia, Simplot, Fonterra, Goodman Fielder, Officeworks, Spotlight, Nestlé, Blackmores and T2 – plus many more.
The Program has also received strong support and endorsement by all levels of government. In 2020 the ARL Program was recognised as a world-leading consumer education initiative in a report by the UN Environment Programme, Consumers International and the One Planet network - 10YFP. The Program was commended for its clarity, reliability and accessibility. It was also singled out as one of the few Programs around the world that is delivering considered, informative and useful information that could effectively increase and improve responsible consumer behaviour.
Packaging Recyclability Evaluation Portal (PREP)
PREP is an online tool that assesses how packaging will perform in the Australian and New Zealand resource recovery systems.
When it comes to packaging, even the smallest details can have an impact on recyclability, including the packaging shape, size, weight, inks, adhesives and the materials used.
For every item of packaging, PREP considers all of these factors, as well as the availability of collection services, how the packaging will behave in a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) and in subsequent processing facilities, such as paper mills and aluminium smelters.
By aggregating this information into a simple online platform, PREP empowers businesses to understand whether their packaging is recyclable, non-recyclable, or conditionally recyclable – provided consumers follow a set of instructions during disposal. The ARL is generated using the evidence supplied by PREP. Only once a business has conducted a PREP assessment can the ARL be used on pack.
The PREP process provides a verified and transparent education loop between the design and the end-of-life of packaging in the Australian and New Zealand kerbside recycling systems.
The Australasian Recycling Label (ARL)
The ARL is an on-pack label that helps customers in Australia and New Zealand to correctly recycle their packaging.
Packaging can be made up of a range of different components and materials, and many of these require different disposal methods. Some belong in the bin, some can be recycled, while others require special instructions in order to be recycled correctly. This includes materials like soft (or ‘scrunchable’) plastics, which need to be returned to the REDCycle collection bins in local Coles or Woolworths stores across Australia.
The ARL provides all of this information - on one easy label.
Launched in 2018, the ARL has been adopted by many of Australia and New Zealand’s largest brands and is now a common sight in supermarkets and shops across the country. With thousands of products on the shelves, and more being added each day, many Australians and New Zealanders are now finding it easier to correctly recycle packaging.
ARL Program Governance
The ARL Program is supported by a robust governance structure designed to ensure a consistent, fair and accurate labelling program is delivered to Australia.
Central to this governance structure are the ARL Program’s two key advisory groups - the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) and the Marketing Advisory Committee (MAC) - which were established under APCO’s administration of the Program in March 2018.
The governance structure is in place to ensure that:
- The complete packaging supply chain, from packaging manufacturers through to the waste and recycling industry, can contribute to the ARL Program and have an active voice in key governance decisions.
- The ARL Program draws on the extensive technical skills and insights of a wide range of experts in the field.
- Program Members are able to confidently and correctly use the ARL Program’s key tools and resources, specifically the Packaging Recyclability Evaluation Portal (PREP) and the Australasian Recycling Label.
Technical Advisory Committee (TAC)
The objective of the TAC is to ensure that the ARL Program is underpinned by accurate and up-to-date recyclability information. The TAC is responsible for ensuring that all data and thresholds within the ARL Program’s core evidence tool, the Packaging Recyclability Evaluation Portal, and the subsequent recyclability outcomes it provides to Members, are accurate and reflective of the current recycling system.
The TAC is comprised of experts from across the supply chain, with representation from brand owners, packaging manufacturers, waste and recyclers, independent experts, and government.
The TAC also comprises two sub-committees – the Plastics Subcommittee and the Paper/Glass/Metal Subcommittee. TAC meetings are held every two months, with sub-committees meeting every alternate month.
The TAC is responsible for:
- Providing essential technical knowledge and understanding of the Australian and New Zealand recycling systems, encompassing both existing and emerging changes for the market
- Ensuring that all information included within PREP is up-to-date and reflective of the current recycling system
- Reviewing the annual kerbside collection data and technical recyclability of the primary materials and formats listed in PREP
- Investigating areas where recyclability is unclear, including emerging technologies and system capabilities both internationally and locally.
How the ARL Program determines recyclability
Determining recyclability is often more complex than what meets the eye. There are a range of contextual factors that influence what is classified as recyclable or not recyclable. When determining recyclability, PREP utilises the following framework to assess if packaging can be collected, sorted, reprocessed, and ultimately reused in manufacturing or made into another item, across the majority of communities in Australia and New Zealand.
Marketing Advisory Committee (MAC)
The objective of the MAC is to ensure that all consumer education and communications activities delivered to support the ARL Program are effective, consistent and adhere to industry best practice.
The MAC was established by Planet Ark and APCO, and is comprised of experts across the supply chain, including brand owners, packaging manufacturers, waste and recyclers, independent experts, and government. The MAC meets every two months.
The MAC is responsible for:
- Reviewing and approving proposed new consumer behaviours for the Conditionally Recyclable ARL
- Reviewing and approving proposed new alternative destinations applying to be recognised under the ARL.
- Supporting the delivery of the National Consumer Education Campaign, a two-year behaviour change and communications program APCO delivers on behalf of the Federal Government to improve sustainable packaging behaviour and understanding. The MAC supports the campaign by reviewing campaign messaging, resources and communications strategies and activity plans.
ARL Program accuracy and consistency
APCO works closely with ARL Program Members to maintain consistency and accuracy of PREP evaluations and ARL artworks on the market. Processes in place to support this include:
- Auditing of ARL Program Members is conducted annually by an independent third-party auditor, to assess applications of the label on the market for consistency and accuracy
- Annual program reporting by ARL Program Members to track the volume of labels on the market
- Extensive training tools and resources are available to support program Members, including online learning modules, user manuals and webinars.
Opportunity for TAC and MAC appeals
The packaging and recycling industries are rapidly evolving spaces. Factors such as changing kerbside access levels and emerging technologies and infrastructure regularly influence the recyclability of packaging formats and materials in Australia. To manage these changes, the ARL Program has a clear appeal process available to all Members. Organisations are welcome to submit an appeal, and supporting evidence to APCO regarding various aspects of the ARL Program including:
- Where they disagree or have concerns about the recyclability results generated by PREP for a particular packaging item (PREP Evaluation Report Appeal – appealed through the TAC)
- Where they would like to propose a new consumer behaviour to be used on the Conditionally Recyclable ARL (Consumer Behaviour Appeal – appealed through the TAC & MAC)
- Where they would like to propose a new alternative destination for recycling to be recognised under the ARL Program (Alternative Destination Appeal – appealed through the TAC & MAC).
All appeals forms can be accessed through the APCO Member Centre.
Following the review by either of the Advisory Committees, if a change is made within the ARL Program (to either or both of PREP and the ARL), this is communicated to all ARL Program Members and wider industry.
APCO and our educational partner Planet Ark have a range of resources to help get the word out about the ARL Program. Visit our resource centre for more information.
For more information on how to join or to provide feedback on the Australasian Recycling Label Program, contact the APCO team at email@example.com or phone (02) 8381 3700.