14 March 2016 by letsrecycle

‘Recycling Rules’ will seek to answer bottle cap question

A communications initiative aimed at clearing common areas of confusion around recyclable materials is expected to be unveiled by WRAP this summer – part of ongoing work to improve consistency of collections.

Speaking at the London Conference on Thursday (10 March), WRAP officials confirmed that the charity is engaged in work to help inform councils provide consistent messages on how materials should be presented for collection by residents, which has initially been dubbed ‘Recycling Rules’.

A WRAP campaign is expected to offer guidance on how bottle caps should be presented for recycling by householders

A WRAP campaign is expected to offer guidance on how bottle caps should be presented for recycling by householders

Two of core questions that council officers will hope to see clarified by WRAP relate to whether items such as tins, cans, tubs and trays should be rinsed or washed before being discarded, and whether lids should be left on plastic bottles or taken off before they are put out for collection.


It is expected that messaging will favour ‘rinsing’ over ‘washing’ of items by householders, although a position on bottle caps has not yet been established.

Some plastics reprocessors favour householders removing caps from bottles as it is then easier to separate the two components once they enter a sorting facility. Bottle caps are predominantly made from coloured HDPE plastic – so this is seen as particularly key when presenting PET bottles, such as those used for soft drinks packaging, for recycling.

These are among questions that have been seen as being the most common areas of confusion on recycling, with different reprocessors offering different specifications on how material should be presented. As a result many local authorities offer differing guidance on how these materials are collected.


This has fed through to confusion amongst householders over how they should present items for recycling, and in some cases has been seen as a barrier to achieving a greater capture of recyclable materials.

Reprocessors have been engaged in discussions with WRAP over the development of a consistent message to take to local authorities and householders – with consistent messaging expected to be publicly available this summer.

The work compliments prior communication messages from WRAP, which last year launched a raft of new promotional materials under its refreshed Recycle Now campaign. This largely focused on the capture of materials that occur in household bedrooms and bathrooms – seen as having a lower capture rate than in the kitchen (see letsrecycle.com story).


Local authorities have welcomed the news that a more consistent approach to communications around areas of confusion is being developed.

Andrew Bird, chair of the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (LARAC), explained that councils would welcome clarification on what reprocessors are looking for in recycling loads.

He said: “Clearly a consistent message about bottle caps being on or off would be beneficial. That’s where a lot of confusion arises with residents at the moment. We get conflicting information from reprocessors, for example just this week I was trying to find out whether windowed envelopes are acceptable or not.”

Mr Bird added: “These things need time to work their way through the system, but if the rules mean better quality in the end even though we are in a very depressed market there’s a financial driver to get it right.”


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