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Big names sign up to new labelling scheme

Officeworks-North-Lakes-BrisbaneMajor retailers Officeworks and Woolworths have committed to a new nationwide labelling scheme aimed at helping consumers recycle their products more effectively.

Leading organisations including Australia Post, Blackmores, Nestlé, Officeworks, Unilever and Woolworths, have already pledged their commitment to using the new labelling, actively working towards reducing the amount of waste going to landfill in Australia.

The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO), alongside Planet Ark and PREP Design, today launched the new scheme, called the Australasian Recycling Label (ARL). The initiative hopes to solve Australia’s critical waste issues by increasing recycling rates and clearly outlining for consumers what product packaging is made from so they can correctly recycle it after use.

“We want to make an impact and have set ambitious goals to transition to zero operational waste through our CSR strategy, the Officeworks Positive Difference Plan,” Alex Staley, national corporate affairs and brand manager for Officeworks told Inside Retail.

“This can only be achieved through better design of primary and transit packaging to encourage reused or recyclability in our stores and our customers’ homes. The ARL provides a simple consumer friendly message to make it easier to recycle.”

Though the retailer has a significant volume of waste, most of it is operational waste that can be recycled, with Staley adding the scheme is now part of its packaging branding process and had not been difficult to implement.

Commenting on suppliers’ response to the scheme, Staley said as the first retailer to adopt the recyclability label, it had developed internal processes to ensure all private label products use the labelling scheme, also showcasing the label at its supplier conference.

“Our firm belief is that if everyone uses this label, we can increase the consumers’ recognition of the label and make it easier for them to do the right thing,” she said.

“When consumers stand in front of their waste or recycling bin, you only have one to two seconds for them to decide which bin to throw the packaging into.”

Business opportunity

When asked whether consumers are increasingly concerned with a brand’s sustainable practices, Staley pointed to the success of several initiatives.

“Last year, we collected over 1.2 million printer cartridges and computer parts for recycling. The BringITback, Cartridges 4 Planet Ark and Mobile muster programs are all voluntary programs that we offer at no cost.

“We have seen the sales of paper-based product made from either 100 per cent recycled or FSC certified products increase to 61 per cent of sales.”

Staley said many of Officeworks’ sustainability programs have been undertaken “because it is the right thing to do”.

“Some of our focus areas have a direct reduction in costs to the business, such as converting our lighting in stores to LED and increasing the amount we recycle. Some, however, are more focused on our team and help to attract and keep the best talent,” she said.

“Being a retailer, we need to ensure that we reflect the needs of our customers who expect us to operate in a responsible manner, whether it be reducing our environmental impact, sourcing products responsibly and ethically, or looking after our team members.”

According to Staley, Officeworks had also received a positive response from its customers regarding the Restoring Australia initiative which was launched last July, which sees Officeworks plant two trees for every one used, based on the weight of paper products customers buy.

APCO CEO Brooke Donnelly said the broad representation by participants in the scheme across industries demonstrated the growing sense of sustainability awareness and commitment in the Australian business community.

Businesses who pledge their commitment to the ARL gain access to an analysis tool that will allow them to better understand the materials they use in their packaging, helping to address problematic materials throughout the supply chain.

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