HIt’s a fact you can reuse over and over again: it turns out that a majority of Australians love to recycle, and the best way to enable them to recycle properly is – surprisingly – to tell them exactly how to do it. on the packaging of a product.
A study by the Australian Packaging Covenant Organization and environmental organization Planet Ark found that 76% of Australians believe recycling is the most positive thing they can do for the environment. More than half of those polled said the first place they turned for information on how to recycle was product packaging.
But it’s rare to see step-by-step recycling instructions printed on the side of a jar of pasta sauce, or below the care instructions on a new dress, with 48% of consumers agreeing with the statement. : “Knowing what I can and I can not recycle at home is confusing.
Planet Ark deputy managing director Rebecca Gilling says a lack of clear labeling creates “twin problems.”
The first problem is sometimes referred to as “ambitious recycling” – where consumers optimistically contaminate their recycling with non-recyclable materials in the hope that they can be reused.
“The other thing is, when people don’t know what they’re doing, they often put valuable recyclables in their garbage cans and end up in landfills,” Gilling explains. Both problems “are based on the lack of awareness among people on how to recycle properly. And this is where the label is so valuable.
That’s not to say that there aren’t companies leading the way.
Courtney Holm, founder of ABCH, an Australian circular fashion brand, says it’s important for brands to take it one step further because “people don’t have time to look for generic information.”
Holm hopes to tackle the garment industry’s “make, wear, throw” clothing consumption model. Every time someone purchases one of their clothes, the brand emails the customer a guide to caring for, recycling, and even composting their purchase. All of this information is also on the company’s website, making it accessible to anyone who stumbles upon any of their second-hand clothes.
She says typical recycling information is “very scattered.” “It’s not organized in such a way that busy people can understand or collect very easily.”
“As a consumer myself, I have this great pair of durable sneakers. But what should I do with them now that they have collapsed and cannot be fixed? And the answer is always landfill.
“If I had instructions with my sneakers that said what to do to recycle them, I absolutely would. But I would be hard pressed to research and find who is recycling shoes in Melbourne at the exact time.
For packaging, the Australian Packaging Covenant Organization has created the Australasian recycling label that brands can add to their products to more clearly identify the different components and how to dispose of them.
Developed in 2018, the label lists the components or materials used in the packaging – for example, the box or the lid – as well as a symbol to indicate whether it should be recycled, discarded or specially recycled – for example via a collection of flexible plastic trash. The program has been adopted by around 400 organizations, including Woolworths, Nestlé and T2.
But Rebecca Sullivan, co-founder of Warndu – an Indigenous-owned sustainable food and lifestyle brand – warns small businesses can face significant hurdles when it comes to making sustainable packaging choices. .
Warndu has gone to great lengths to make its products and packaging as environmentally friendly as possible. Its tea boxes are made of cardboard and 100% recyclable; its sachets of spices will soon be compostable; and its line of home and body products are plastic-free.
But Sullivan says well-meaning small businesses like Warndu may struggle to find and afford the most sustainable packaging options early on, given their size and budget.
“We just started making tea,” she said. “We have spent months trying to find a tea bag that is as durable as possible. We couldn’t afford to go and have them produced in a factory where we had to make at least 3,000 copies of each flavor.
“So we filled all of our tea bags ourselves and used the bloody hair straightener to seal them. We had to get paper tea bags sent from America because we couldn’t find anyone in Australia who we could just order 1000 at a time, and we couldn’t afford to order more than that .
While Sullivan thinks consumers should have more information on how to recycle better, she points out that “there isn’t a lot of space on a product.”
“We have so many rules and regulations that we already have to follow, you know? We have to have grams, we have to have nutrition labels, bar codes, made in Australia or not. You have to have a nice description and a marketing story, your price, ”she says.
“And you add … by giving instructions to people on how to get rid of it.” Is it the responsibility of producers or of consumers?
“We all have to make an effort and we can’t blame anyone for it… I think the responsibility should lie with everyone. You know, we are all part of this world together.