UK: New industry framework set to help increase recycling

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Illustration to the "Framework" (Source: WRAP)

Banbury, UK — It offers the opportunity to increase recycling, improve the quality of recycled materials and offer a comprehensive service to householders: the new „Framework for Greater Consistency in Household Recycling for England“ developed by an advisory group of representatives from across the sector and supported by Defra and DCLG.

Cumulative benefits estimated

Published yesterday, it draws on local authority and industry good practice and has potential to bring financial and other benefits. Cumulative benefits estimated over an eight year period include:

  • Up to 11 million tonnes of extra recyclable material diverted from disposal, including more than 8 million tonnes of food waste
  • Avoidance of around 5 million tonnes of greenhouses gases released into the atmosphere
  • An increase to England’s recycling rate by seven percentage points

Central to the framework is collaborative action to address recycling barriers at three key stages by:

  • increasing the recyclability of packaging
  • reducing consumer confusion over what can and can’t be recycled
  • and working with local authorities to collect more of the core materials in one of three ways.

All supported by widespread communications with householders using the same messages.

To achieve industry’s collective vision

This action will help achieve the industry’s collective vision that „By 2025 packaging is designed, where practical and environmentally beneficial, to be recycled and is labelled clearly to indicate whether it can be recycled or not. Every household in England can recycle a common set of dry recyclable materials and food waste, collected in one of three ways“.

Extensive research, alongside advisory group engagement was undertaken to confirm the three collection systems presented in the framework: multi-stream with food; two-stream with food separate; and, co-mingled mixed recyclables with food separate. In each system core materials, including plastic pots, tubs and trays and aerosols – known to cause confusion for householders – are collected.

Pooling the wealth of recycling experience

Marcus Gover, WRAP CEO and Chair of the Advisory Group, said: “As an industry we have achieved so much in the last 15 years. A thriving recycling industry has been created and recycling is now a way of life. When Defra asked us to investigate the opportunities for greater consistency, we were delighted to lead this, and to work with representatives from each stage of the recycling supply chain. By pooling the wealth of recycling experience from across the sectors, we have developed a vision that offers the opportunity to increase recycling, improve the quality of recycled materials, save money and offer a good service to householders. It is only by joining together that we can now realise the benefits of the vision and I look forward to working with all those involved to do that.”

More consistent household recycling isn’t going to be easy, it will require the collective action of brands, retailers, manufacturers, local authorities, waste management companies and reprocessors. Action in many of the areas highlighted in the framework is underway with enthusiasm from across the sector.

Industry contributed to the development

The industry group statement ran: “Our organisations have contributed to the development of this Framework for greater consistency in household recycling in England and have committed to further initiatives to take it forward. It has been developed with the support of Government, and is designed to help deliver improvements in the quality and quantity of materials collected from the household waste stream for recycling, better engaged and less confused householders and financial benefits. We commend it to our sectors, and look forward to working with colleagues to realise the benefits identified.”

WRAP is working with seven local authority areas which are evaluating the business case for consistency locally. A group, chaired by Iain Ferguson, Environment Manager for The Co-operative, has been formed to tackle key issues on the recyclability of packaging. Charlotte Carroll, Sustainable Business and Communications Director at Unilever, is chairing a group looking at innovative communications and messages. In addition, a review of sorting infrastructure in support of greater consistency will commence soon.

The rationale behind the framework, ‘The case for greater consistency in household recycling’, is also published today. It outlines the benefits of greater consistency and why the opportunities have been put forward.

Download both the framework and the underpinning analysis from wrap.org.uk. The benefits to each sector, and the desired actions for them to take, are laid out in the Benefits to Business documents, which can be downloaded from wrap.org.uk.

Source: Waste Action and Resource Programme (WRAP)