Recycling info on labels a dogs breakfast: ACOR

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An independent national audit of recycling information on consumer products and packaging reveals what the Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR) said is a situation that is “confusing for consumers and does not support better recycling”.

Dog's breakfast: recyling labelling
Dog's breakfast: Recycling labelling

The audit – conducted by sustainability consultancy Equilibrium across supermarkets, takeaway outlets, and convenience stores in two capital cities – found 88 per cent of the packaging components sampled were recyclable through either kerbside recycling or a supermarket-based return programme, but that only 40 per cent of these products had a recycling claim present on pack.

ACOR CEO Pete Shmigel said: “The audit shows a dog’s breakfast of consumer information about what products and packaging components are or aren’t recyclable. It’s little wonder that the community regularly says that, while it strongly supports recycling, there’s confusion because of inconsistent, unclear and even misleading logos and claims on the products they buy,” he said.

“The dog’s breakfast undoubtedly leads to some material going to the wrong place such as recyclables to garbage bins and non-recyclables to recycling bins. That means recycling rates that aren’t as high as they could be, contamination that is too high, and it’s harder to achieve national targets such as 70 per cent plastics recycling (from our current 12 per cent).”

Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) CEO Brooke Donnelly said her organisation welcomes robust discussion and feedback on the progress of labelling in Australia.

“The report has identified something that APCO and our partners at Planet Ark and PREP Design have long recognised: that Australia needs a clear, concise and evidenced-based label placed on every product and packaging type sold into the Australian market.” Donnelly said.

“It’s fantastic to see key sectors within the packaging supply chain recognising the importance of the labelling issue and we welcome their engagement and participation in the ARL [Australasian Recycling Label] Program moving forward. The ARL Program is the only evidence-based labelling system on the market and we look forward to seeing the ARL on every packaging format as the programme grows over the coming years.”

Donnelly said the ARL Program is continuing to grow rapidly and is tracking well compared to similar programmes being implemented around the world.

“After less than two years in market, we are excited to see the leadership and hard work of Australian industry being recognised, with the ARL featuring on approximately a quarter of all products on shelves. This is an incredible achievement within a short time frame,” she said.

“There has never been a better time to be part of the programme. If you would like to find out more, please get in touch with the APCO team today.”

Planet Ark CEO Paul Klymenko said after many years working to develop the Australasian Recycling Label, Planet Ark is impressed with the level of uptake after launching the program with APCO and PREP Design just two years ago.

“The uptake has been significantly faster than comparable international labels, and the Australasian Recycling Label has been recognised by international bodies like the United Nations Environment Program as best practice when it comes to informing consumers how to best dispose of their packaging,” Klymenko said.

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