23 September 2019

‘We are a nation of recyclers’

With Recycle Week underway, Peter Maddox, director for WRAP UK, has some positive messages in the wake of research into public attitudes on recycling.

OPINION: We are a nation of recyclers – and it’s not just me saying that. Our latest research on public attitudes to recycling has revealed three fascinating facts.

  • More of us are doing it: over six in ten describe ourselves as committed recyclers compared to less than half when our Recycle Now campaign launched in 2004.
  • We’re recycling more stuff: three in five UK households are recycling extra items – including 32% who say they have started to recycle new things and 34% who say they’ve increased the recycling of existing items. One in four say they are recycling more food waste than last year.
  • And it’s becoming the norm: our research tells us that recycling is increasingly something people feel they ought to do, rather than a chore.

Given the high current levels of public interest in tackling plastic pollution and climate change, it’s worth reminding ourselves that recycling is a way to address both these issues – which is great news as we raise the curtain on Recycle Week.

WRAP’s Peter Maddox who says that Recycle Week is a “great opportunity to remind people that their efforts are worth it”.

We know that household recycling is a topic guaranteed to get people fired up. They want to know that the effort they put into recycling is worthwhile. Where does their waste end up? Is it all actually recycled?

There have been some horror stories in the national media over recent months, including about potentially illegal shipments of unrecyclable waste sent abroad, labelled as recyclable plastics.


That’s wrong, and we support the strongest penalties for those who break the law. We also welcome this scrutiny as it helps to expose and drive out bad practice. As they say, sunlight is the best disinfectant.

The barriers that prevent people from recycling more effectively
are well understood, and are being addressed by the UK Government’s resources and waste strategy, which should result in an upturn in recycling rates over time.

We shouldn’t shy away from banging the drum for household recycling. It is hugely important for the planet that we all recycle more of the right things, more often, from all around our homes. Small actions by a large number of people really can make a difference, and though there are imperfections in the current recycling system, they shouldn’t detract from its overall effectiveness.


This brings me on to Recycle Week, which takes place from 23 to 29 September. It’s a great opportunity to remind people why their recycling efforts are worth it.

In the last few years, Recycle Now has become an exciting and dynamic campaign informed by consumer insights and a clear marketing strategy. This has enabled us to engage with businesses across the board from local authorities to large corporate brands and retailers, who know the importance of understanding and talking to their customers.

“Let’s not forget how far we’ve come together and celebrate what we’ve achieved”

Peter Maddox, WRAP

Recycle Week aims to raise awareness of the importance of recycling, providing people with the information they need to recycle more things, more often from all around the home. From plastic bottles to old mobile phones, we work to tell people what they can put back into the system, and how. Amazingly, over one third of a million people visited our Recycling Locator website over the last month, to find out where their nearest recycling facility was – our highest ever visitor numbers.

Local authorities

Local authorities remain the most engaged part of the sector, with more than 100 adopting the social norming approach we’re using in Recycle Now. I’d like to thank them all for their hard work and encourage those councils who aren’t yet working with us to get in touch.

Let’s not forget how far we’ve come together and celebrate what we’ve achieved – while remembering there’s always more that can be done.

Last year, Recycle Week trended at number one on Twitter on the first day of the campaign. This year, let’s smash that record!


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