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 and packaging manufacturers 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 kerbside or approved drop-off recycling 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 and includes Members such as Woolworths, Coles, Aldi, The Arnott’s Group, Australia Post, David Jones and Country Road Group, Unilever, Pact Group, Simplot, Fonterra, Goodman Fielder, Officeworks, Spotlight, Nestlé, Blackmores, The Smith’s Snackfood Company and Hanes Australasia – plus many more.
The Program has received strong support and endorsement from 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.
The ARL Program has been acknowledged in the National Waste Policy Action Plan and National Plastics Plan as a key action to improve consumer awareness and increase recycling rates. As part of the National Plastics Plan, the Australian Government has committed to working with industry to see the ARL displayed on 80% of supermarket products by 2023.
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.
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 recycling systems. PREP can be used at the procurement, design and re-design stages of the packaging development process to inform best practice design for recovery.
The Australasian Recycling Label (ARL)
The ARL is an on-pack label that helps consumers in Australia and New Zealand to correctly recycle their household packaging. The ARL removes confusion and reduces waste by educating consumers on how to dispose of every separable component of 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 across Australia or the Soft Plastics Recycling Program collection bins in New Zealand.
The ARL provides all of this information - on one easy label.
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 region. With tens of 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, by simply checking for the ARL on-pack.
How the ARL Program determines recyclability
Determining recyclability is often more complex than 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.
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 is the ARL Advisory Committee. Formally the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) and the Marketing Advisory Committee (MAC), this structure has been an established part of APCO’s administration of the Program since March 2018. In 2022, these two Advisory Committees merged to provide well-rounded expertise that meets the developing needs of the ARL Program.
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.
ARL Advisory Committee (AAC)
The objective of the AAC is to ensure that the ARL Program is underpinned by accurate and up-to-date recyclability information. The AAC 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. Additionally, the AAC ensures that all consumer education and communications activities delivered to support the ARL Program are effective, consistent and adhere to industry best practice.
The AAC is comprised of experts from across the supply chain, with representation from brand owners, packaging manufacturers, waste and recyclers, independent experts, and government.
The AAC 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.
- Reviewing and advising on proposed new consumer behaviours for the Conditionally Recyclable ARL.
- Reviewing and advising on proposed new alternative destinations applying to be recognised under the ARL.
- Supporting the delivery of consumer education and communications.
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 AAC 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).
- Where they would like to propose a new consumer behaviour to be used on the Conditionally Recyclable ARL (Consumer Behaviour Appeal).
- Where they would like to propose a new alternative destination for recycling to be recognised under the ARL Program (Alternative Destination Appeal).
All appeals forms can be accessed through the APCO Member Centre.
Following the review, 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 the wider industry.
APCO and our education 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.