First National Recycling Guidelines published by WRAP, promising an end to householder confusion


The new guidelines cover paper, card, cartons, metal, plastic and glass packaging, and food waste.

A definitive list of what can and cannot be accepted for recycling at the roadside was published by WRAP on 12 October.

The Recycling Guidelines, developed by WRAP with recyclers, local authorities and waste management companies, will make it easier for households to recycle more across the whole of the UK.

WRAP’s 2016 Recycling Tracker Survey found that two thirds of UK households (66%) expressed uncertainty about how to correctly dispose of one or more items and almost half (49%) admitted to disposing of one or more items in the residual bin when they are collected for recycling in their area.

As such the guidelines have been designed to help reduce confusion amongst householders across England, Scotland and Wales and help ensure that all items that can be recycled are being collected for recycling. Key information and messages included in the guidelines can be incorporated in targeted and strategic communications to help increase recycling, reduce contamination, and ultimately realise savings across the whole supply chain.

The guidelines cover paper, card, cartons, metal, plastic and glass packaging, and food waste and for each material outline:
1. What items can be included in a collection and what should not;
2. How the materials should be presented for recycling (i.e. rinsing, lids on/off); and
3. Concise reasons why certain items cannot be accepted or should be presented in a particular way.

The guidelines include key findings from consumer research undertaken to inform their development. This research revealed that up to 94% of respondents learned something new with more learning about things that cannot be recycled than items that can be. Key feedback is the difficulty of communicating such comprehensive information. Underlining that to communicate all this information in one go, would be overwhelming for most people and as such is not recommended.

This is the first action that has been delivered in support of greater consistency in household recycling, following the publication of the industry’s Framework for England in September. What’s more, these guidelines have the benefit of being available across the UK. Linda Crichton, Head of Resource Management at WRAP, said: “For as long as I have been at WRAP there has been a desire to have clarity across the country on what can be recycled and how items should be presented for recycling. We now have that – labels and tops can be left on bottles, envelopes can be recycled, trigger sprays don’t need to be removed!”

Crichton praised the “collaborative effort” behind “this ground-breaking work” WRAP will keep the guidelines under review and incorporate additional materials and advice as practices and technology develops, she said.

Stuart Foster from RECOUP said: “The recycling guidelines project led by WRAP is an ideal opportunity for local authorities to align consumer messages around plastic collections. We urge all local authorities to review their existing messaging and adopt the information within the guidance document wherever possible. At RECOUP we believe this represents a low cost quick win opportunity to help remove confusion around household plastics recycling, and underpins the ambitions and benefits of the wider consistency programme.”

Lee Marshall from LARAC said: “LARAC has been pleased to be involved in the process of developing the guidelines along with other parts of the industry. The fact that local authorities and reprocessors were able to work constructively to produce these guidelines shows the way forward for increasing recycling levels in the UK. Without a willingness to engage local authorities this couldn’t have happened and we now encourage local authorities to use these guidelines to enhance their communications and give the public the consistent messages they say they want.”

The guidelines, as well as the findings from the consumer testing, will be embedded in Recycle Now resources, with new communications materials being made available to local authorities and other partners to download and localise. Recycle Now’s plastics platform, which runs throughout October and November, will feature digital resources which capture information from the guidelines. This follows on from the hugely successful ‘Unusual Suspects’ campaign launched during Recycle Week.

The Guidelines were immediately welcomed by stakeholders across the recycling industry. Recycling Association chief Simon Ellin said: “Householders and local authorities are the first part of the recycling supply chain. What they do and achieve is instrumental on household recycling quality.

“These Guidelines make everything that much easier. They provide clarity, and, if widely adopted, will put an end to householder confusion.

“They make it easier for local authorities to take the next step, driving quality improvements at the collection stage. They will also facilitate improvements further along the supply chain as we will all be working with common materials and common practices – as well as common goals.”

Ellin added that that The Recycling Association members were in favour of WRAP’s consistency programme as it “will help local authorities to produce the right mix of material for reprocessors. The responsibility to maximise quality will then pass to recyclers, and then on to traders and the logistics sector,” he said.

This collective responsibility for quality is important as the global market for recovered materials is changing.

“The market is maturing,” Simon Ellin said. “There is a much greater emphasis on quality, with sub-standard quality material being rejected and either used for energy production, or even landfilled.

“The UK needs to raise the standard of recycled material to maintain its global markets. These new guidelines are helping us move in the right direction.

“We’re also pleased to see so many recycling organisations working together to push for a new way of doing things. That is refreshing. If we can harness this joint approach we can improve recycling performance significantly.

“This is a big step forward at the front end of the supply chain. It has the potential to be a game changer and we support it 100%,” he concluded.

WRAP is interested to discuss how the guidelines could be used and communicated to residents and urge local authorities and other partners to get in touch (la.support@wrap.org.uk).

To find out more you can visit www.wrap.org.uk/consistentrecycling.

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