Figure 1 Breakdown of components of the Australasian Recycling Label. Source: ARL

The Australasian Recycling Label (ARL) is an evidence-based standardised system that provides easy to understand disposal instructions for each part of a product’s packaging.

The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) developed labelling standards with Planet Ark and PREP Design. The label includes (see Figure 33):

  • The name of the package component the label refers to
  • Symbols to identify whether the component is recyclable, conditionally recyclable or not recyclable
  • Recyclable label has filled recycling symbol
  • Conditionally recyclable label has clear recycling symbol with written instructions (e.g. return to store)
  • Non-recyclable label has clear bin symbol.

The second phase of the ARL includes a recycled content label to help drive consumer awareness and demand for products with recycled content and a compostability label to provide much needed clarity for these products. Organisations including Australia Post, Blackmores, Nestlé, Officeworks, Unilever, Coles and Woolworths have pledged their commitment to using the label. It was introduced in September 2018 and has since been adopted by more than 200 Australian organisations.

Underpinning the ARL is the Packaging Recyclability Evaluation Portal (PREP). This analysis tool allows businesses to assess whether their product is recyclable through Australia’s kerbside recycling system. By evaluating the materials used, their associated environmental impacts and local access to recycling capability, the tool allows businesses to address problematic materials throughout the supply chain and shift to packaging that is recyclable during product development and redesign. Any business that pledges their commitment to the ARL gains access to the PREP.

Part of the labelling standard relates to recycling accessibility – a product can only be labelled as recyclable if more than 80% of the population has access for that item to be recycled through their local kerbside recycling system. Packaging NZ and WasteMINZ worked with the PREP tool developers to localise the labels for the Aotearoa New Zealand kerbside recycling system. However, since this work was completed, there have been many changes to kerbside recycling across Aotearoa New Zealand in response to unstable recycling markets. This includes a number of councils restricting the plastics they accept via kerbside collection to PET (#1) and HDPE (#2). Any changes to recycling accessibility need to be reflected in the PREP tool and resulting recycling labels. Therefore, the PREP tool and ARL could be implemented in Aotearoa New Zealand, but its full potential will only be realised when the kerbside recycling system is consistent and stable.


The PREP tool and ARL could be implemented in Aotearoa New Zealand, but its full potential will only be realised when the kerbside recycling system is consistent and stable

Explore more case studies from Rethinking Plastics

Sustainability through connection, learning and action

With a kaupapa of creating a healthy, peaceful, more sustainable world, Toimata Foundation supports inter-generational learning and action by running two main programmes in schools and communities:…

Reducing the carbon footprint of plastics by using recycled plastic

In a study of the carbon footprint of projected global plastic use between 2015 and 2050, Zheng and Suh modelled a theoretical situation of 100% recycling of plastic in 2050, and found it had a 25%…

A reusable system to replace single-use cups

Globelet offers a reusable cup system for festivals and other events. The cups are made from recycled polypropylene (#5) and manufactured onshore. Globelet provides the following statistics on their…

How big is the plastic clothing problem for Aotearoa New Zealand?

Some plastic articles of clothing are captured in the ‘Plastics and articles thereof’ harmonised trade codes in import data from Statistics NZ, but this does not account for all synthetic fibres im…

A business enabling people to rethink their use of plastic

Ecostore is an exemplar of how a business can take transformative action to rethink how we use plastics and inspire system-wide change. To enable people to reduce their use of non-renewable single-…

New Zealand Post’s quest for an alternative to plastic

The driver: New Zealand Post wants a more sustainable, environmentally friendly alternative to their existing plastic mailers (e.g. courier bags, pre-paid postage bags). New Zealand Post has also…

Para Kore – helping people reduce their waste

Para Kore is a Māori organisation that provides mentoring and support for marae, kōhanga reo, kura, community organisations, iwi, tertiary, commercial sector, events and Māori communities to reduce…

Plastic Bag Free Raglan, Pēke Kirihou Kore Whāingaroa

In October 2018, Whāingaroa Raglan won the Keep New Zealand Beautiful ‘Community Environmental Initiative Award’. The kōrero behind the Award was a story of what happened when a whole community wor…

Controlled plastic decomposition

Plastics are made by joining monomers together to form long flexible chains in a process known as polymerisation. The strength of the bonds formed between monomers is what makes the plastics persis…

Recyclable shoes

As part of its recent pledge to use only recycled plastics by 2024, Adidas revealed a new sneaker made from 100% recyclable materials. Driven by a connection to environmental organisation Parley for…