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Australia puts a label on packaging targets

The Australian federal government has launched national packaging targets to reduce the amount of waste, including plastics, going to landfills.

Environment Minister Melissa Price announced the targets when she launched a new Australasian recycling label (ARL), which aims to make it easier for Australians to work out what packaging is recyclable.

"The label removes confusion and reduces waste. It also helps prevent the wrong waste contaminating the recycling stream," Price said.

The targets Price announced are:

• 70 percent of plastic packaging being recycled or composted.

• 30 percent average recycled content across all packaging.

• Phasing out "problematic and unnecessary" single-use plastic packaging.

Jeff Angel, executive director of the Sydney-based Total Environment Center, criticized the targets being voluntary, "given the widely demonstrated shortcomings of voluntary product stewardship models."

Angel is also director of Boomerang Alliance, a network of 47 environmental groups, which wants higher targets in shorter time frames, and government incentives "to build a viable circular economy for plastics."

Price said the ARL provides easy-to-understand recycling information when Australians need it most, "in those few seconds when they are deciding which bin to use."

The label indicates if packaging is recyclable in curbside bins, and also which packages are either potentially recyclable or should definitely go in the garbage.

But the ARL is not foolproof. In one sample, ARL shows the cardboard and plastic tray from a box of chocolates being recyclable, but the film wrap going to a household garbage bin.

However, depending on the resin type, if the film were taken to a RedCycle bin, available at many major supermarkets around Australia, it may be able to be recycled with other films.

Australia's national packaging targets follow state and territory environment ministers committing in April to 100 percent of packaging being recyclable, compostable or reusable by 2025.


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