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Effective Labels Crucial for Better Recycling

Written by Damien Wigley on 26 August 2020

Consumers are well placed to make better decisions about how and where to recycle their packaging.  Ensuring that the public is well informed will help reduce contamination and improve overall recycling performance.

An independent national audit of recycling information on consumer products and packaging has revealed a situation that is confusing for consumers and does not support better recycling, according to the Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR).

The audit – conducted by  Equilibrium – took place across supermarkets, take-away outlets, and convenience stores in two capital cities, found 88% of the packaging components sampled were recyclable through either kerbside recycling or a supermarket-based return program, but that only 40% of these products had a recycling claim present on them.

Additional findings are:

> 55% of imported products and 64% of Australian products sampled displayed a recyclability claim of any kind;
> 23% of products had the Australian Recycling Label (ARL) promoted by the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation;
29% of products had the “Mobius Loop” recycling symbol;
> 29% of plastic products had a resin code symbol which is often mistaken for a recyclability symbol;
> The Tidyman logo appeared on 15% of products sampled, including both recyclable and non-recyclable products; and
> There was no consistent style, placement, or sizing of recyclable labels.

The audit indicates that recycling rates that aren’t as high as they could be and contamination  is too high, and it’s harder to achieve national targets such as 70% plastics recycling (from our current 12%).

ACOR fully supports the report’s recommendations, including:

> Labels need to be specific about the management methods of all components, and also include instructions to avoid contamination;
> There needs to be a clear, concise and evidenced-based label placed on every product and packaging type sold into the Australian market;
> The preferred label should be made mandatory and be flexible enough to incorporate new technologies and systems as they come online to recycle more products;
> The “Mobius Loop” could cause consumer confusion, and a short cut to achieving greater clarity and consistency is to remove these and plastic resin codes from packaging; and
> There is a role for authorities such as the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in driving and ensuring clarity and consistency in environmental claims and labels pertaining to recycling.

The ACOR media release published on 20 August 2020 can be viewed here.

The audit report can be downloaded here.

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