New industry framework set to help increase recycling

13th September 2016

Everyone in England could be recycling the same set of core materials1 by 2025 no matter where they live in the country, if a new framework is adopted. 

The ‘Framework for Greater Consistency in Household Recycling for England’ developed by an advisory group of representatives from across the sector2, and supported by Defra and DCLG, offers the opportunity to increase recycling, improve the quality of recycled materials and offer a comprehensive service to householders.  

Published today, 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 period3 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. 

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. 

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 group statement4: “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 areas5 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

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  


Notes to Editors: 


1. Core set of materials: plastic bottles, plastic packaging (pots, tubs and trays), metal packaging (cans, aerosols, foil), glass bottles and jars, paper, card, food and drinks cartons, and food waste.  

 2. Advisory Group members:

  • Advisory Committee on Packaging
  • Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association
  • Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport
  • British Retail Consortium 
  • Chartered Institute of Waste Management 
  • Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 
  • Department for Communities and Local Government 
  • Environment Services Association 
  • Food and Drink Federation
  • Green Alliance 
  • Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee
  • Local Government Association 
  • London Waste and Recycling Board/Resource London
  • National Association of Waste Disposal Officers
  • Recycling Association 
  • Resource Association 
  • WRAP

3. Eight year transition period 2017/18 to 2025/26

4. Industry group includes:

Advisory Committee on Packaging

Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association

Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport

British Retail Consortium

Chartered Institution of Wastes Management

Environmental Services Association

Food and Drink Federation

Green Alliance

Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee

London Waste and Recycling Board / Resource London

National Association of Waste Disposal Officers

Recycling Association

Resource Association

5. Suffolk Waste Partnership (8 councils), South and East Cambridgeshire and Cambridge City, Norfolk Waste Partnership (8 councils), Cumbria Waste Partnership (7 councils), Staffordshire Waste Partnership (9 councils), Northamptonshire Waste Partnership (8 councils) and a South East London cluster of Bexley, Bromley, Greenwich, Lambeth and Lewisham boroughs.

Supporting quotes: 

Charlotte Carroll, Sustainable Business and Communications Director, Unilever UK & Ireland: “It is vital that we maximise the value of our waste by capturing and recycling used packaging and unavoidable food waste. To achieve this ambition we need a consistent recycling system which leverages action across the supply chain. Building consistency will enable clear and simple communications nationwide which supports our mission to help drive up recycling rates. This will take a truly collaborative approach and Unilever is delighted to be playing its part.” 

Iain Ferguson, Environment Manager at the Co-op and Chair of the Rationalisation of Packaging Group, said: “We welcome the move to increase consistency in the collection of packaging, and support the introduction of a new countrywide framework for England. We are the first retailer to sign up to the Plastics Industry Recycling Action Plan (PIRAP), the industry led strategy to encourage the whole supply chain to contribute to increasing plastic packaging recycling, and we are committed to making our contribution to improving packaging recyclability.”

Useful links:

For the framework, case for greater consistency, business benefits documents and case studies -

WRAP Tracker Survey 2016

Key stats re consumer confusion and material contamination: 

Consumer confusion:

In WRAP’s latest tracker survey, 73% of respondents indicated that they were uncertain about whether at least one or two materials could be recycled (WRAP Tracker Survey 2016).

70% of people are unsure about what they can/cannot recycle when they travel outside of their local area (ICM Poll 2016)

Material contamination:

Contamination and poor quality material costs the UK reprocessors more than £51m each year (Costs of Contamination Report, Resource Association)

66% of people that contaminate do so because they are not sure if it can/can’t be recycled and so include it in the hope it will be (WRAP Tracker Survey 2016)


Majority of people find on-pack labelling useful and would like to see more packaging labelled to indicate whether it is recyclable or not (Tracker survey 2016)

The On Pack Recycling Label (OPRL) is particularly important for engaging with 18-24 year olds (the least effective recyclers) who are more likely to use it as a source of information. (WRAP Tracker survey 2016)

About WRAP

1. First established in 2000, WRAP is a not for profit organisation and registered charity whose vision is a world where resources are used sustainably. WRAP works with governments, businesses and communities to deliver practical solutions to improve resource efficiency.

2. Our mission is to accelerate the move to a sustainable resource-efficient economy through: 

a. re-inventing how we design, produce and sell products,

b. re-thinking how we use and consume products, and

c. re-defining what is possible through re-use and recycling.

For further information:

Website - 

Twitter - @WRAP_UK

PR contact - Clare Usher or Ian Palmer / / / 01295 819619


Clare Usher

PR Officer
01295 819678

Ian Palmer

PR Officer, WRAP
01295 819 677