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The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) has developed the new Recycled Content Label Program, which is designed to support the increased use of recycled content in packaging.

APCO says the new Recycled Content Label Program will support members, and the wider industry, to accelerate the push towards achieving the National Packaging Target of 50 per cent of average recycled content included in packaging by the year 2025.

It says as Australia continues to work towards the transition to a circular economy for packaging, industry is making strong progress towards 50 per cent, with 2018/19 data showing a 38 per cent average of recycled content in packaging.

The RCL Program is currently in the final development phase, with APCO working with industry to ensure it is accessible, robust and supportive. APCO is calling on all members and key stakeholders in the packaging value chain to become involved in the important development phase.

Brooke Donnelly, APCO CEO, said: “For recycling to be truly complete, the materials we recover must be used again as recycled content at its highest potential value, for as long as possible. The development and provision of successful end markets for recycled content is therefore critical to the achievement of both the 2025 National Packaging Targets, and the development of a true circular economy for packaging.”

Brooke Donnelly
Brooke Donnelly, APCO CEO

APCO says to date Australian industry has made a commendable effort to utilise recycled content in packaging over a number of years, but its increased use has been stymied by the lack of verification of the origin and composition of recycled materials and inconsistent on-pack labelling. It says this new programme will provide both industry and consumers with confidence in recycled content, empowering businesses to increase their use of recycled content, and consumers to choose this packaging – driving demand for recycled content and, in turn, sustained recycling.

Current activity is focused on developing the RCL Program with industry to ensure it is user friendly, accessible, and supports the increased use of recycled content in packaging.

Pilots of the traceability standard will take place as well as webinars and workshops to allow APCO members to contribute feedback and begin planning for the implementation of the RCL Program. APCO will also establish a reference group later this year to seek further feedback and industry expertise through this critical development stage.

As a starting point, you can learn more about recycled content from APCO’s guiding resources on the topic, including the Recycled Content Guide, Recycled Content Targets and the Supporting Government Procurement of Recycled Materials.

The key programme objectives include:

Deliver a Traceability Standard and Verification Scheme that:
• Provides confidence for brand owners’ recycled materials claims through on-pack labelling.
• Enables the tracking of progress towards the 2025 Targets and APCO Member reporting.
• Engages the supply chain to understand current recycled content utilisation and opportunities to increase this.

Deliver a Recycled Content Label that:
• Enables a consistent and clear on-pack label, growing consumer engagement and understanding of recycled materials.
• Separates often confused messaging of ‘recyclable’ materials and ‘recycled’ materials.
• Increases awareness of the importance of recycled materials and builds renewed confidence in recycling.
• Empowers consumers to choose packaging with recycled materials – driving demand for recycled content and in turn sustained recycling.
• Meets ISO 14021 & ACCC Green Marketing Guidelines requirements.
• Recognises and rewards organisations utilising recycled content.

Members are encouraged to:
• Signal your interest in the RCL Program by signing up to the RCL Program Expression Of Interest• Review and utilise existing resources
o   Recycled Content Guide 
o   Recycled Content Targets 
o   Supporting Government Procurement of Recycled Materials

• Join upcoming webinars and workshops to enable all APCO Members and key stakeholders to contribute to the development of the RCL Program.

• Provide feedback directly to APCO about your experiences, learnings and recommendations for the RCL Program – get in touch using arl@apco.org.au

• Work with your suppliers and packaging manufacturers to investigate how your supply chain is currently documenting and evidencing the use of any recycled materials. Ask lots of questions to get as much information as possible. Ensure they’re aware of what’s coming, so they can support you on this journey.

• If you are just getting started in understanding your use of recycled materials, assess your current supply chain and labelling practices and identify where improvements can be made. For example, use New Product Development timelines to investigate the use of recycled materials and the capture of traceability documentation or establish processes internally for gathering data on recycled materials.

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