The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is teaming up with some of South Africa’s biggest supermarket to standardise and simplify recycling labels on packaging. These ‘On-Pack Recycling Labels’ will clearly indicate whether the packaging can or cannot be recycled. This will help consumers to easily identify whether the packaging can be placed in a recycling bin.
Woolworths has already made an effort to clarify the recyclability of certain plastic packaging. In April 2019, the retailer announced its plans to use written words on it product packaging – saying either “Widely recycled in SA” or “Not currently recycled”. The supermarkets currently working with the WWF include Clicks, Food Lover’s Market, Pick n Pay, Shoprite, Spar and Woolworths.
South Africa currently was detailed food labelling regulations to ensure that the consumer is well-informed about the food that they consume. Lists of ingredients and allergens are clearly labelled on all food items. However, there is often little information about how to dispose of the packaging of these products. These new recycling labels will inform consumers of how best to dispose of their waste.
Features of the new recycling labels
The supermarkets and WWF have been searching for ways to clearly disseminate information in a concise way. The new recycling labels will follow Woolworths’ example with written words on the labels; the messaging will simply read “Recycled” or “Not Recycled”. This will tell consumers what can and cannot be placed in a recycling bin.
To qualify for the “Recycled” label, the packaging material must be recycled on a large scale in at least one major city. This information will be reviewed by the WWF on a regular basis and the labels can be changed at any time should their findings permit it. The packaging materials and labels will still contain the material identification code (the logo of three arrows forming a triangle around a number).
The changes have been in the pipeline for many years
The WWF has been working on this project for a number of years. “It’s an effort that’s been running in the industry for about eight years, so concluding a transparent and widely consultative process is no small feat,” says WWF circular plastics project manager Lorren de Kock. “We trust that it will make both the consumer and the waste-pickers’ task of understanding what is recyclable much easier,” she adds.
“However, this is by no means enough. Increasing our understanding of the recyclability of a particular type of packaging is only step one in the behaviour change necessary to stop the flow of plastics in nature. We also need to reduce our dependence on single-use plastics,” explains de Kock.
While it is technically possible to recycle all plastic materials, a number of factors prohibit certain polymers from being recycled in South Africa. These could include high costs of recycling, lack of input materials and no end-market for the recycled products. However, the list of plastics that can be recycled in South Africa is slowly growing.
These new labels will help to boost the local recycling industry by encouraging consumers to dispose of their waste in a responsible manner. By clearly labelling what can and cannot be recycled, the WWF and local supermarkets will help consumers to make good decisions when it comes to their plastic waste.
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