New ARL logos/symbols on plastic packaging

This is a very small issue, but it feels like Coles is pretending to sell meat in recyclable plastic trays when it isn’t, and by using misleading labelling is claiming to be more sustainable than it is, and is probably encouraging consumers to inadvertently do the wrong thing, adding to pressure on recycling centres.

I purchased some meat last week. The meat was fine. The plastic tray had a sticker with symbols suggesting that the tray could be recycled, and that the film and label could be recycled if returned to store (photo attached). I checked the tray after removing the film and label for recycling with soft plastic. Apart from the symbols on the label, there was no recycling symbol on the tray itself, anywhere. In addition, the symbol suggesting the tray is recyclable was a generic triangle, with no code to identify the material the tray was made of.

I put the tray in the rubbish.

Without the recycling symbol stamped on the tray:

  • if I’d optimistically put the tray into the council recycling bin without Cole’s label, the recycling facility would have had no way of knowing whether it was made from recyclable plastic. Even with the label, they couldn’t have known what type of plastic it was made of - I assume best case it would have been sorted into landfill;
  • it seems like Coles is pretending that/careless about whether its containers are recyclable and so adding to the problem of wish cycling while using false information to promote its commitment to sustainability (providing information which is misleading or deceptive in trade or commerce?).

I raised the issue with Coles. Their unhelpful response:

Thank you for contacting Coles Customer Care.

We are in the process of rolling out the Australasian Recycling Logo (ARL) on Coles Own Brand products including meat products. The ARL is a labeling system that provides easy to understand instructions about how to correctly dispose of a product’s packaging.

You will be able to find some of our meat products that are already using recyclable packaging, including Plantic trays, by looking for the ALR logo that states; ‘Tray: recyclable’. We expect to complete the ARL roll-out on our meat products in the near future.

Plastic trays such as meat trays or soft food trays recyclability differs across councils, so we’d advise getting in touch with your local council for more info.

We hope this helps, and we look forward to being of service to you again in the future.

I think that means that despite the stick-on label, meat trays aren’t generally recyclable. No idea how a council could help given the lack of information Coles has chosen to provide.

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Hi @Shepp , welcome to the community.

I have reworded your post title as it covers a important topic, the new ARL logos/symbols.

More information can be found here…

https://apco.org.au/the-australasian-recycling-label

In relation to your post…

The label shows the tray is recyclable in the kerbside recycling bin. There should be a separate symbol moulded into the tray - could be on the side of near the corners.

The label and covering film are soft plastic and should be removed before placing the tray in the kerbside recycling bin.

From the label, the label and film can be recycled through a Coles/Woolworths store (or other bin locations) by placing in the Redcycle collection bins.

The label recycling symbols are the ARL symbols showing how to dispose of the packaging after use. These are different to recycling symbols surrounding a number showing plastic type which appears on the container.

The ARL logos/symbols are becoming more common on mixed plastic packaging, like your meat tray, to assist consumers in recycling the packaging whist minimising contamination (from range of plastic types) in the recycling stream.

The ARL symbols should be followed when recycling if you want to do your bit to minimise waste and maximise recycling opportunities for your used packaging.

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Welcome to the Community @Shepp

It is true that different councils have different restrictions on what they will take for recycling and there are often differences even with neighbouring councils.

This site from what appears to be an activist organisation tells it like it is…the key claim is

  • The plastic recycling number system actually serves no purpose: the consumer cannot do much with it and the waste separators do not use it. Clicking through includes the ‘why’.

and this site explains what the triangles are and are not.

The bottom line is the triangles are information for consumers about the plastic, not about recycling per se.

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Here are some other examples of the new ARL logos on products:

Botanica Room Spray:

image

These logo indicate that a consumer should remove/unscrew the trigger before placing the bottle in the kerbside recycling bin. The trigger is to be placed in the kerbside general waste bin to prevent contamination in the recycling stream.

iCare Paper Towel

image

The cores (inner cardboard tubes) are to be pleased in the herbsite recycling bin, while the wrapping/film can be returned to the store of purchase for recycling through Redcycle.

Strike Pro Toilet Cleaner

image

The cap can be left on the bottle before placing both within the kerbside recycling bin.

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Our milk bottles also say “crush bottle, re-attach cap” (similar to Strike Pro example above), yet my council says that bottles with caps attached go to landfill.

I had been collecting the caps for a group who sent them to a children’s prosthetics maker, but this is no longer happening. So I asked the Council what to do with them. They are too small for recycling (have to go to landfill), and if left on the bottle, will divert both to landfill. I have been removing labels from bottles as requested by Council. Not sure if this is needed.

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Councils always know best what their contracted recycling companies process.

The ARL symbols reflect what is possible, not what is done.

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There are only a very limited number of plastic recyclers in Australia. The logos on the packaging is supported by the Australian recycling industry and they are a key representative on the ARL Advisory Committee. The AAC are responsible for

  • Providing essential technical knowledge and understanding of the Australian and New Zealand recycling systems, encompassing both existing and emerging changes for the market.
  • Ensuring that all information included within PREP is up-to-date and reflective of the current recycling system.
  • Reviewing the annual kerbside collection data and technical recyclability of the primary materials and formats listed in PREP.
  • Investigating areas where recyclability is unclear, including emerging technologies and system capabilities both internationally and locally.
  • Reviewing and advising on proposed new consumer behaviours for the Conditionally Recyclable ARL.
  • Reviewing and advising on proposed new alternative destinations applying to be recognised under the ARL.
  • Supporting the delivery of consumer education and communications.

It is likely that

is based in pre-ARL implementation or for those containers which haven’t been placed in the kerbside recycling bin in accordance with the labelled ARL logos. If one follows the ARL logos when preparing containers for recycling, then no matter the council area, the materials will be recyclable and compliant with recycling industry requirements.

Not following the ARL logos where they exist may result in the materials becoming waste through contamination.

Where products don’t have ARL logos, traditional standard recycling preparatory methods are to be used such as removing food scraps, lids/caps, spray triggers, soft plastic outers (such as on fresh produce containers) etc as advised in Councils/Council literature on how to recycle.

If it has an ARL logo, irrespective of what former traditional standard recycling preparatory methods were, follow these when recycling anywhere in Australia.

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Gets confusing when the Council’s Info-graphic shows different things to the ARL logos.

They show milk and drink bottles (remove lids and place in waste bin) - ARL says don’t remove lids
Steel cans with labels removed, but Aluminium cans with labels. Council says remove labels.
White styrofoam to waste, yet Council will recycle it, but it must go to the correct tip.
No mention of soft plastics in Red Cycle, Council info-graphic - they go to waste.

I get annoyed with packaging with the triangle symbol and small print “please dispose of thoughtfully” as though the item is fully recyclable. I very thoughtfully determine “I’m not buying that again”.

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Reality is that the recycling contractors have varying ranges of equipment.

For example Even though black plastic pots are recyclable the sorting equipment at the recycling facility (Cleanaway) cannot identify them and sorts them incorrectly. They use optical sorting technology.

and

Small plastic lids (e.g bottle lids): dispose of in your red landfill bin.
Small lids fall through the sorting lines at the recycling facility and are not sorted with the correct plastic types.

Separately the council advised all black plastic pots and small lids were rejected and sent to landfill by Cleanaway, so we need not bother with them.

/begin edit
I do not know the veracity of this nationally or if only locally, but council also states

Black plastic trays cannot be recycled in Australia as the sorting equipment cannot identify them. Dispose of in your red landfill bin.
/end edit

Labels do not always meet with reality although one should hope and expect they will in the short or medium term future.

Council still knows best for every local situation and most try to timely update to reflect their local reality.

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The plastic pots and small plastic lids don’t currently have ARL logos so using these as examples are irrelevant as

Each MURF has different equipment for sorting, but, the ARL logos have been approved by the Australian Recycling Industry for methods to prepare recyclable materials for recycling through these MURFs (see my previous post).

The ARL logos are standard nationally. Where products have ARL logos, containers should be prepared for recycling in accordance with the ARL logo.

In the future more and more products will have ARL logos for standardised, national (Australian) recycling information for the consumer to follow to prepare containers for recycling.

Time is moving on from traditional standard recycling preparatory methods and these past practices are being superseded by ARL logos. Those products which labels have a Packaging Recyclability Evaluation Portal assessment completed and the products can be recycles through any kerbside recycling program using the methods described by the logos.

More information is available on:

It is likely that some products in the future, which can’t be handled by MURFs or can’t be recycled (due to category, colour or contamination) won’t have ARL logos and will be disposed of as general waste. Until such time every packaging has the ARL logo, those with logos should be treated in accordance with the logos and those without ARL logos handled as required by Councils/Council literature. This was also outlined in my previous post.

It might have applied in the past, but the ARL logo labels do. Each product which has the ARL label has had a PREP assessment completed and is the national standardised way to prepare that particular article for recycling, so that the product can be accepted by the recycling industry and that the recyclability of materials collected by kerbside recycling programs are maximised. Failure to follow the ARL logos for those products where ARL logos appear…

If the ARL logo says to leave the lid/cap on, the lid or cap can be left on. If the ARL logo says to remove the lid/cap, it should be removed.

If the container has no ARL logo, then traditional methods for preparing packaging for recycling should be followed, that being that the cap/lid be removed.

Over time more and more packaging will have the ARL logos to remove confusion over how recycled materials are to be prepared before placing into a kerbside recycling bin.

There is a transitional phase, which has just started, where there will be packaging with and without ARL logos. Until such time that every piece of packaging has gone through a Packaging Recyclability Evaluation Portal assessment, there will be two systems in play. The ARL logo for those packages with the logos and the older Council distributed information on how to recycle. Hopefully in the future all packaging will go through the Packaging Recyclability Evaluation Portal assessment process and there will be one system (the ARL logo system).

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The packaging surrounding those products often does have the ARL advice, as with the many items where the ARL advice is not on the item but on the packaging.

Follow the advice, but do not always expect the article to be recycled just because of the ARL tag. It could contaminate a load, or the recyclers equipment could successfully separate the different plastics. Only the recycler (and hopefully council) knows for sure.

I do not think I’ll respond further. We may be having different discussions.

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I am yet to see one after many visits to nurseries and hardware stores. If you have a photograph of an example, I would be interested in seeing it.

I have taken a keen interest in the scheme as a former member of the Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia and also lecturing in the field. I have also been long advocating for the measures which reduce contamination and maximise recyclability - some which have appeared within this community over time.

This is nonsense and goes against the work done by the industry.

Yes recyclers know and why they are key representatives on the ARL Advisory Committee. The recyclers (who receive and process/recycle the materials) know what they need to maximise recyclability of materials. This is why they fully support the ARL logo system.

Councils aren’t recyclers. They only collect and sort materials (often using contractors) and then send it to recyclers for reuse/processing/recycling. It is also worth noting that there are government representatives on the ARL Advisory Committee.

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My vote is to follow the council.

Just to assist us consumers ours provides the following booklet. I’ve not bothered with the optional videos. The booklet answers most questions. Unknowns EG LED bulbs are not mentioned explicitly and appear to go to general waste. IE no local stream to collect and recycle.

https://publicdocs.scc.qld.gov.au/hpecmwebdrawer/Record/20879853/File/document

Warning: There is not one ARL logo mentioned anywhere in the booklet. Which is just as well since not every item that can be recycled has one, and some are hard to decipher. Especially those businesses who save ink by not filling in the recycle* arrows.

If any are wondering if the outlook of the SCC is unique, I’ve current (this month) experience of the bin rules and recycling guides for two large councils, Brisbane the largest in Oz and Newcastle the one with best “old” beer. ARL logos may be an aid to the recycler. These councils like the SCC are also pragmatic in their use of everyday descriptive terms for guiding the recycling aware consumer.

P.S. *
No need to correct me on filled in recycle arrows. One of life’s great frustrations is the experts in the industry need to get out and talk to the average consumer when they are putting stuff in the bins. I suspect they think we know more than we know. I appreciate the simple dictionary look up at the end of the booklet.

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Because the document was prepared pre-ARL implementation.

Contact your council and they will confirm status of the ARL logos system.

If they say not to adopt the system, go to the media. They will soon be put in line by the industry and potentially the Commonwealth and State Governments. Please read:

In particular the comment:

All Australian governments have endorsed the ARL to help make recycling easier.

No, one needs to follow the new ARL logos when they appear on packaging. Not doing so may contaminate the recycling stream causing materials which could be recycled going to landfill.

It is worth noting Council can take some time to update their resources. They are also unlikely to do so during the transitional period as it may be costly to update resources regularly to ensure they remain correct as more packaging has a PREP assessment.

It is also worth reading the ARL website and FAQs to appreciate how important it is to recycle in accordance with the ARL logos. This has been accepted nationally (and incidentally by NZ) and is supported by all industries.

There has been much effort across the multisectors with in Australian economy (packaging industry, retail industry, recycling industry, government and other key stakeholders) to improve quality of packaging entering kerbside recycling bins to maximise the opportunity for them to be recycled. The easiest way they have found to do this is have simple recycling instructions on each packaging type.

As Australia can no longer send all its highly contaminated (especially plastic) recycling streams overseas as a ‘disposal’ option, it needs to manage it internally. This fits within Australia’s National Waste Policy to minimise materials going to landfill. The ARL logos/system is a significant step in the right direction to achieve these outcomes. The ARL logos outline how packaging should be prepared so its recyclability is maximised, whilst at the same time minimising contamination.

It is a change, and change is often hard to swallow. The ARL logo/system is in its early stage of implementation and as outlined above, packaging with ARL should be prepared for placement in kerbside recycling bins in accordance with the logos. Not doing so may mean recyclers can’t process the received recycling stream, with materials potentially going to landfill.

Following ARL logos is being part if the solution, not doing do is being part of the problem.

If one disagrees with the ARL logos, one can try an explain from a layperson point of view, why multisector industry experts are wrong.

In the future, the recycling arrows with numbers of plastic items will become more or less redundant as a guide for recycling. Using these has proven to be far from being successful and hence the ARL logo system.

Until recycling using recycling arrows and corresponding numbers (for plastic) are fully dropped, as outlined above there will be a transitional phase where packaging with ARL logos are prepared in accordance with the logos. Those without are prepared in accordance with Council information.

It is critical that consumers follow this approach if Australia is to meet the National Strategy outcomes and what one places in the kerbside recycling bins can be recycled to the maximum practical extent.

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That sounds like I risk going to jail. Perhaps It is simpler to do what many others do and put all in the general waste bin. That way it is impossible to get the recycling wrong. Fortunately both of our bins are rarely half full and often less and we try hard to put stuff where it should best go. And we do appreciate the added labelling where it is legible without the need for glasses.

I am being serious.
It can be pointless trying to get the average consumer to interrogate items and read labels if they do not align with the education councils are providing.

No amount of reference to industry bodies EG

is going to make a difference if they are trapped in their own space.

As a consumer I pay council to provide the service of collection. Hence theirs to sort this out. If the recyclers see opportunity to do so differently, it is their task to obtain alignment with councils. As a rate payer we all know “you can’t fight city hall”? :joy:

It’s a simple point. Rather than trying to wedge consumers between the ARL symbols and councils, it’s up to the industry to sort out with council. I’d argue the more there is dischord between the two the more it is going to confuse consumers and turn us away from recycling. I’ve more productive things to waste my time on. :wink:

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Please read all the links I have provided in my earlier posts. While one may have opinions, it is important to read reliable information from a number of sources (government, industry, industry associations, environmental groups etc) rather than spreading misinformation based on opinion.

The ARL logos are the future and one needs to accept this is the case and to start recycling in accordance with these logos where they exist. The ARL logo system removes decision making, on individual product packaging based on generic Council guidelines, by the consumer. There is sufficient evidence from the past that leaving decision making based on generic Council guidelines hasn’t worked. The ARL logo system rectifies many of the deficiencies in the ‘old system’ and is why it has been endorsed for use by all Australian governments (including Commonwealth, State local governments/Councils), industry, industry associations, environmental groups and other relevant key stakeholders.

The ARL logo system is a simple and clear way to get consumers to recycle correctly, reducing contamination and maximising the opportunity for collected materials to be recycled.

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If some is taken as opinion it may be taken as speaking from first hand experience as well as observation.

I do read the recycling labels, and I do make an effort to seperate batteries etc. If one takes the time it is now possible to differentiate different requirements for mixed packaging. At great inconvenience and some personal expense I visit the local waste disposal facility for proper disposal. There are 4 compost bins on the go for food waste. All yard waste is treated similarly. I often enquire of Council as to the required disposal of certain waste. I’ve never been directed or provided a similar service by other than the local council. Neither the council or industry are beating a drum to promote progress on the ARL symbols.

Perhaps I should be forgiven for thinking the transition is one without a plan or coordinated introduction. It’s more just a happening.

Wisdom here is to refer to the immediate and responsible part of government, the local council. That would be my suggestion to any one else in the community. The ARL symbols are an assistance, assuming the local waste service is set up to manage the range of waste they indicate. Something each local council can best answer.

In respect of progressing the ARL symbols on packaging, are these the same as those on the packaging of imported products? A large volume of packaging waste comes with imported product. Hopefully we are not doing it differently and adding another Australia tax to the product cost.

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No, as outlined above, please read the above links as it outlines how the ARL labelling is approved for use and used…

If one takes time to read the links, they will realise that

is out of date as recycling in Australia is moving on from what was common practice in the past.

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Those links tell me how the recycling depot might sort the stuff in the yellow bin. It’s also what the recycling lady passes on in the first video from the following link. IE Not to be too concerned with the little triangles on the packaging. They are there to help the sorters at the recycling depot with placing the product in the correct pile. There are so many recycled household items that are not labelled.

There is one area of potential conflict or need for clarification. The differences in common advice on what to do with smaller items including lids and pump tops. Some suggest leaving them on and others removing them. Of course all smaller items fall through the screens including items up to larger style plastic caps used to protect pressure pack cans.

For what goes in the yellow bin and is acceptable to the local council recycler, I’d appreciate an informed view of the quality of the following related content. The link contains 6 short memorable YouTube presentations and 3 pdf reference docs as a look up guide for those hard to know what to do with items. It is far more comprehensive and useful. Especially as one does not need to refer to the recycling symbol for most common household waste. Assumes it is labelled and easilly read.

Learn how to Recycle Right

I see this as more comprehensive approach to improved outcomes. The ATG symbols are just one tool related to waste handling needs.

They explain what the ARL logo system is an how it is being implemented nationally (and in NZ) and endorsed by all levels of government, multisector industry stakeholders, environmental groups and other key stakeholders.

It explains that the ARL logos are there to show consumers how to prepare recyclable materials for placement in their kerbside recycling bins and how to deal with those parts of the packaging which can’t be recycled (such as disposing in general waste or taking it back to store to recycle through the Redcycle program.

Details of how each piece of packaging is to be prepared for recycling is presented on the packaging, rather than in some convoluted generic council guides and videos a consumer needs to try and understand.

There is no conflict or clarification required with the ARL logo system. The ARL logos on packaging provide clear information on what to do with lids and pump tops - see example images above. It takes away decision making by consumers which occurs under the old system.

The logos tell the consumer how to manage these items. The packaging has gone through a PREP assessment which confirms how these items are managed.

Logos on each product are unique to the packaging of that product. Some logos on packaging require removal of caps/lids/pump packs to prevent contamination of the recycling stream while others can be left attached (left screwed onto the container).

The confusion lies with the old system as consumers didn’t have sufficient information on what to do with these items. Often they were all thrown into the recycling bin in the hope that they could be recycled. Those which couldn’t be handled by the recycling industry caused contamination of the recycling stream, either resulting the recycling becoming waste in landfill of the quality of the recycles downgraded to the lowest level and virtually unusable.

As I indicated, this is the old system which will be replaced over time with the ARL logo.

There is no point trying to defend the use of the old system, as the ARL logo system is being implemented nationally (and in NZ) and endorsed by all levels of government, multisector industry stakeholders, environmental groups and other key stakeholders. This is the future, the old system will eventually be left in the past along with the problems which were created by under the old system.

The old system is generic. The ARL logo system acknowledges that each form of packaging is potentially unique, contains unique combination of materials and has the potential to be prepared differently in preparation for recycling. The ARL Logo system’s PREP assessment identifies how each component of each piece of packaging is managed by the consumer in preparation for recycling. It is clear, specific to the packaging in question and easy to follow.

Many Council’s websites contain out-of-date information which is unlikely to be updated during the transition phase (that being until the ARL Logo system appears on most, if not all, packaging/containers). However, if one contacts their Council they should be able to advise of the national implementation of the ARL Logo system (and in NZ) and how it has been endorsed by all levels of government, multisector industry stakeholders, environmental groups and other key stakeholders (as outlined already on the above Commonwealth Government website, Planet Ark, Clean Up Australia, APCO and other industry websites).

It is important consumers follow the ARL logos on the packaging to reduce waste, reduce contamination in the recycling stream and maximise the opportunity for items to be recycled. Not doing so, Australia will have the same problems which existed in the past and won’t be able to achieve the targets under the National Waste Policy.

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