12 February 2019 by Elizabeth Slow

OPRL marks ten years in use  

The UK-wide packaging recycling labelling scheme – the On-Pack Recycling Label (OPRL) – is celebrating its tenth year in use.

Founded in 2009, OPRL – which is administered by OPRL Ltd – was originally set up by British Retail Consortium and Food & Drink Federation members working with WRAP.

Plastic bottles with the ‘Widely Recycled’ status from OPRL’s Guidelines

According to organisers of the scheme, the label has established itself as a ‘recognised marque’ with consumers, as supermarkets, high street retailers and leading brands applied it to packaging in common household items.


Karen Graley, founding director and packaging & reprographics manager at Waitrose, which was among the founders of the scheme, said: “That early, relatively small collaboration of a few dozen retailers and brands was an important step in providing consistent, clear and simple recycling advice to consumers.

“Ten years and over 300 additional members later, we have gained recognition with three in four people now acting on our labels, making us the most widely recognised and understood recycling label in the UK.”

As many as 600 brands now incorporate the recycling labels, according to OPRL, which now has up to 333 members.

Jane Bevis, founding director and now Chair of OPRL added: “Our recent surveying shows more than four in five people check packaging often or periodically for advice on recycling, even when they’re pretty confident about what to recycle – they expect to see our labels there.

“Over the last six years we’ve consistently scored as the best understood and acted on recycling labelling system. We’re the industry standard. No wonder brands, retailers, packaging designers and manufacturers, supply chain partners and compliance schemes are flocking to join OPRL.”


The OPRL label has three categories which tell consumers how likely it is that their local authority will accept specific packaging materials for recycling.

The categories include: ‘widely recycled’ where 75% or more of UK local authorities collect that type of packaging, ‘check locally’, between 20% and 75% of UK local authorities collect that type of packaging, and ‘not yet recycled’, where fewer than 20% of UK local authorities collect that type of packaging.

More recent developments include an online tool aiming to make it easy to label packaging accurately for recycling (see letsrecycle.com story).

Digital growth

Speaking about the developments in services offered by OPRL, Stuart Lendrum, founding director and now executive director of OPRL commented: “We started with a pretty basic website and a pdf of our Labelling Guidelines back in 2009, supported by WRAP, the BRC and FDF.

“Now we have an increasingly sophisticated online offer, with tools for members such as PREP UK which aids designing for recyclability, to our labelling tool drawing on an extensive artwork library, and our supply chain supporters showcase to help members find wider solutions – from packaging designers and manufacturers to compliance schemes, data services and technical consultancies.“


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