WRAP releases National Recycling Guidelines

WRAP has released its first National Recycling Guidelines at the LARAC conference this week, which have been developed together with industry stakeholders.

The WRAP guidelines state that bottle tops can be left on plastic bottles

And, significantly, the guidelines have specified that bottle tops can be left on plastic bottles, previously a source of contention within the industry.

WRAP worked with recyclers, local authorities and waste management companies to produce a document of what can and cannot be collected at the kerbside.

The guidelines aim to make it easier for households to recycle more effectively across the whole of the UK, according to WRAP, having been designed to reduce ‘confusion’ amongst householders across England, Scotland and Wales.

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.


“WRAP will keep the guidelines under review and incorporate additional materials and advice as practices and technology develops.”

Linda Crichton, head of resource management, WRAP

The guidelines cover paper, card, cartons, metal, plastic and glass packaging and food waste, and for each material outline what items can and can’t be collected, how the materials should be presented for recycling (i.e. rinsing, lids on/off), and why certain items cannot be accepted.

WRAP hopes the guidelines offers the opportunity for more consistent communications to householders from local authorities, to ‘help increase recycling, reduce contamination and realise savings’.

The guidelines were informed by key findings from consumer research, which revealed that up to 94% of respondents were less knowledgeable about items that cannot be recycled than about those that can be, and that there is too much information to be communicated effectively at one time.

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.

Bottle tops

Significantly, the guidelines state that labels and bottle tops can all be left on. Bottle tops have been a contentious topic within the plastics industry, with some reprocessors preferring householders to remove them so that the two components can be easily separated (see letsrecycle.com story).

The guidelines also note that black plastic has temporarily been omitted from this list as it is currently not recyclable, owing to the inability to sort it. However, brands, retailers and manufacturers are being consulted to consider the widespread adoption of fluorescent ink marking which would make this material sortable. A decision will be made by January 2017.

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!

Axion is carrying out two projects to explore value from waste on behalf of local authorities
The WRAP guidelines specify what can be collected at kerbside for paper, card, cartons, metal, plastic and glass packaging and food waste

She added: “WRAP will keep the guidelines under review and incorporate additional materials and advice as practices and technology develops.”

‘Way forward’

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, and findings from the consumer testing will be included in WRAP’s Recycle Now resources, with new communications materials for local authorities and others to download and localise.

Resource Association

The Resource Association, which collaborated on the guidelines, has welcomed the National Recycling Guidelines as a ‘necessary step’ towards consistency and high quality recycling.

Chief executive Ray Georgeson said: “We were pleased to be able to work with WRAP on this important project and warmly welcome the publication of the Guidelines. They are a necessary next step in the journey towards greater consistency in household recycling collections and in the essential task of improving the quality of recyclate by reducing contamination. I commend them to local authorities and industry alike and I hope they are rapidly adopted in the coming months.”

Related Links

WRAP National Recycling Guidelines 


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