On pack recycling labels: What you need to know

Jan 20, 2022 by Mark Dingley

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Most Australians love recycling, and the best way to empower them to recycle properly is to tell them exactly how to do so on your product’s packaging.

A 2021 study by the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation and the environmental organisation Planet Ark found that 3 in 4 Australians (76%) think recycling is the most positive thing they can do for the environment.

Here’s the important part:

More than half of respondents said the first place they turned to for information about how to recycle is the product’s packaging.

There’s currently no mandatory recycling labelling for products, however there is a program that is fast becoming the most popular labelling scheme across Australia, backed by national household brands and the government.

Arl Label

What is the Australasian Recycling Label (ARL)?

The ARL is the only evidence-based, on-pack label that shows Australians how to correctly recycle and dispose of all parts of their packaging after use.

Developed in 2018, it’s designed to take the confusion out of recycling and gives Australians the confidence to know that they are recycling right.

As of 2021, more than 500 brands are using the program, including the likes of KFC, Swisse Wellness, lululemon, Nestlé, Blackmores, T2 and Woolworths own brand products.

It’s not mandatory, but Australian Government has committed to work with industry to apply the ARL on at least 80% of supermarket products by December 2023.

So, if your business is not yet using the label, now is the time to start.

What the ARL label looks like

The label lists the components or materials used in the packaging, such as lid or film, along with a symbol to show whether it should be:

Australasian Recycling Label

Because it focuses on kerbside recycling, the ARL does not currently provide information for compostable packaging, which is a definite disadvantage for those brands who are doing the right thing.


How does it work?

It is not possible for a piece of packaging to have the ARL without an assessment that backs up disposal claims. That’s what makes the ARL unique – it is an evidence-based system underpinned by the Packaging Recyclability Evaluation Portal (PREP).

PREP assesses the materials used to manufacture a piece of packaging, as well as its shape, weight, size, inks, adhesives used and other variables.

The portal simulates the behaviour of packaging in the Australian and New Zealand recycling ecosystems, all the way through to sorting in Materials Recovery Facilities and other processing facilities.

This helps businesses to understand whether their packaging is recyclable, non-recyclable, or conditionally recyclable, so the right label can be produced for consumers.

Only once a business has conducted a PREP assessment can the ARL be used on pack.

The good news is you don’t need to send in your physical packaging – everything is done using the online tool.

How to create the label

Once the assessment is complete, you’ll get information to use in your draft ARL artwork, along with detail on required ARL artwork dimensions (size, shape, etc).

Then, you need to provide APCO with your first ARL design and PREP report for approval, before going to print.

There is no set place for the ARL to be placed on-pack, however the recommended spot is where consumers are familiar with finding recycling information, such as next to barcodes, on the back of pack.

You must be a member of APCO to use the label

The Australasian Recycling Label is a trademarked logo and can only be used by members of the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO).

To apply to put the label on your packaging, you need to first become an APCO member and agree to use the Packaging Recyclability Evaluation Portal (PREP) and the ARL according to stipulated guidelines.

Over to you

With states around Australia moving towards new sustainable goals, like the NSW single use plastic ban, recycling is on consumers’ radar. The time to add the recycling label to your products is now. APCO research shows three quarters of Australians want to see the label on every item of packaging, while almost half say the ARL would influence their decision to buy a product.

When brands include the ARL on their product packaging, it clearly demonstrates that they care about the environment and take their sustainable packaging obligations seriously.

What more reason do you need?

If you are a brand owner who wants to get the Australasian Recycling Label on your packaging, head over to the APCO website to find out more.