Packaging recycling obligations for packaging producers are determined by national business targets set by the government.

In order to account for packaging handled by non-obligated companies the UK business targets are set at a higher level than the European Directive targets to ensure the UK as a whole complies with the European Directive targets. The targets are intended to ensure that the UK complies with the packaging recycling targets set out in Directive 94/62/EC on packaging and packaging waste.targets generic

The previous round of targets were announced in Budget 2012 and covered the five-year period form 2013-17. This included a split target for glass to encourage more cullet to be sent for remelt rather than other applications such as aggregates. The glass targets were amended in 2014 after new data came to light and, following consultation, were extended to 2020. The consultation also included options for revised plastics targets for 2016 and 2017 and extended plastic targets to 2020.

In the March 2017 Budget, the aluminium, steel, paper and wood targets, and the general recycling and recovery targets were set for 2020. The table below shows the business recycling targets.

Targets for UK obligated businesses

Material2016 (%)2017 (%)2018 (%)2019 (%)2020 (%)
by which re-melt6767676767
Total Recycling71.872.773.674.575.4
Total Recovery7879808182


Policy consultations

In the first half of 2019, the UK Government consulted on reforming the UK Packaging Waste system. This document, along with other consultations held at the same time, will significantly alter the way in which the UK packaging waste system operates in the future, with significant changes and cost impacts for packaging producers.  Within the document proposals for interim 2021 and 2022 targets are included, along with proposed 2025 and 2030 recycling targets. The intended commencement for the new system is the beginning of 2023.

EU Directive target (in place since 2008) (%)
Paper and board60
Total recycling and composting55
Total energy recovery, recycling and composting60

Proposed UK Packaging Recycling Targets 2025 and 2030 (source: Defra consultation document March 2019)

EU 2025 and 2030 targets*

2025 targets (%)2030 targets (%)
Paper and board7585
Ferrous Metal7080
Total prepared for re-use and recycled6570

*up to 5% points may be attained via reusable sales packaging placed on the market, as an average across the past three years. Wood which is prepared for reuse can be used when calculating the recycling achievement for wood.