13 October 2017 by Steve Eminton

WRAP consults on national colour scheme for bins


Linda Crichton, resource policy manager at WRAP, announced that a consultation is starting on a possible national colour scheme for bins in England

WRAP’s head of resource management, Linda Crichton has unveiled a consultation document on  a national colour scheme for waste and recycling bins and containers in England. However, the actual colours will be consulted on later.

And, the WRAP official has also reassured local authority officers that there is flexibility in the recycling consistency framework.

Mrs Crichton was speaking yesterday (12 October) at the annual LARAC recycling officers conference in Nottingham. This was a day after resource minister Therese Coffey had taken something of a swipe at the idea of “Whitehall” telling councils how many bins to give to residents.


Defending the consistency programme, the WRAP officer emphasised that aspects of policy on it “are still ongoing” and that “there is flexibility in the framework to suit different local authority types”.

WRAP has explained that the consistency framework, which was published in September 2016, sets out a vision where by 2025 “packaging is designed to be recyclable and is clearly labelled to indicate whether it can be recycled or not. Every household in England should be able to recycle a common set of dry recyclable materials and food waste collected in one of three different ways.”

The framework also included a commitment to explore the adoption of a national colour scheme for bins and containers.

Bin colours

On bins, Mrs Crichton said: “Last year Marcus Gover [WRAP’s chief executive] spoke to you about consistency and there have been lots of questions about bin colours and a national framework.

Colours of bins

Bin colours vary around England (clockwise from top left): Birmingham with black bins and one with a blue lid; Slough, with black, green and red; seen in Southwark, blue and grey; and in Southampton, green and green with a blue lid.

“We have launched a consultation today. It is an opportunity for you to say what you think and whether you would support a more consistent framework for collection colours.”

The consultation document is available at: Container colour consultation.

Respondents are asked a variety of questions including the degree to which they think a national colour scheme might reduce household confusion about recycling and also about whether it might help achieve a quicker procurement time for the containers.

In the consultation WRAP says that it has identified “some potential options” for the scheme including whether the whole box or bin should be a single colour or perhaps lids could be different colours. Questions are also asked about potential timescales for delivering new colour coded services and whether the system should be mandatory or voluntary.

National brands

Delegates also heard from Mrs Crichton that this year’s Recycle Week “has been hugely successful. At national level we have had more support than ever from national brands. For the first time we had the recycling swoosh on the adverts Coca Cola ran.”

Other aspects of the consistency programme include recycling labelling on grocery and other packaging and Mrs Crichton said that good progress was being made on this with major retailers all now on board.

On the achievements front, she reported that some food waste collections schemes “had dropped off” but the number of authorities collecting food waste on its own had risen from 104 to 109, partly because of the introduction of chargeable green waste services.”

The LARAC audience also heard from Iain Ferguson, environment manager at the retailer Co-op.

He explained to delegates some of the challenges facing retailers including the fact that lightweight trays for foods may have  almost gone too far as they were blowing off the belts in sorting plants breaking up into too small pieces in shredder. This was something that was being investigated. [updated 18/10/2017]

Delegates were reassured that work was continuing on black trays – WRAP currently advises local authorities not to collect these. And, Mr Ferguson also said that discussions were needed with local authorities before new materials such as polyethylene furanoate bottles (PEF) which may be coming to the marketplace and could be replacing PET bottles*.

(*Earlier this year manufacturer BASF said that The European PET Bottle Platform (EPBP) has given interim approval for the recyclability of polyethylenefuranoate (PEF), produced by Synvina C.V., Amsterdam, in the European bottle recycling market. Following EPBP’s assessment PEF bottles are expected to be disposable through existing recovery systems the same way as polyethylene terephthalate (PET), the conventional material for plastic bottles.”)

we needed to find ways to consult with local authorities before new materials were introduced to the market, citing PEF as an example.

2)      I said that lightweighting may have gone too far, not that it had, and that this was something that was being investigated.

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