Industry comes together to produce first ever National Recycling Guidelines

12th October 2016

For the first time recyclers, local authorities and waste management companies have come together to produce a definitive list of what can and cannot be accepted for recycling at the kerbside.  The Recycling Guidelines, developed by WRAP with industry, will make it easier for households to recycle more – more effectively across the whole of the UK.

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.

As such the guidelines have been designed to help reduce confusion amongst householders across England, Scotland and Wales and help ensure that all items that can be recycled are being collected for recycling.   Key information and messages included in the guidelines can be incorporated in targeted and strategic communications to help increase recycling, reduce contamination, and ultimately realise savings across the whole supply chain.

The guidelines cover paper, card, cartons, metal, plastic and glass packaging, and food waste and for each material outline:
1. What items can be included in a collection and what should not;
2. How the materials should be presented for recycling (i.e. rinsing, lids on/off); and
3. Concise reasons why certain items cannot be accepted or should be presented in a particular way.

The guidelines include key findings from consumer research undertaken to inform their development. This research revealed that up to 94% of respondents learned something new with more learning about things that cannot be recycled than items that can be. Key feedback is the difficulty of communicating such comprehensive information. Underlining that to communicate all this information in one go, would be overwhelming for most people and as such is not recommended.

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. What’s more, these guidelines have the benefit of being available across the UK. 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! We wish to thank all those involved for coming together to enable this ground-breaking work to happen. It has been a truly collaborative effort without which, the guidelines would not have been produced. We all have an interest in increasing recycling and making it less confusing for people. As such we encourage all organisations to consider the guidelines and adopt the information and messages that are relevant to them.  WRAP will keep the guidelines under review and incorporate additional materials and advice as practices and technology develops.”

Stuart Foster from RECOUP said: “The recycling guidelines project led by WRAP is an ideal opportunity for local authorities to align consumer messages around plastic collections.  We urge all local authorities to review their existing messaging and adopt the information within the guidance document wherever possible. At RECOUP we believe this represents a low cost quick win opportunity to help remove confusion around household plastics recycling, and underpins the ambitions and benefits of the wider consistency programme.”

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, as well as the findings from the consumer testing, will be embedded in Recycle Now resources, with new communications materials being made available to local authorities and other partners to download and localise. Recycle Now’s plastics platform, which runs throughout October and November, will feature digital resources which capture information from the guidelines. This follows on from the hugely successful ‘Unusual Suspects’ campaign launched during Recycle Week.

WRAP is interested to discuss how the guidelines could be used and communicated to residents and urge local authorities and other partners to get in touch.

To find out more you can visit:


Notes to editors:
WRAP consulted with the following organisations and trade bodies during the development of The Recycling Guidelines:
• Resource Association
• British Glass
• Environmental Services Association (ESA)
• British Plastics Federation (BPF)
• PlasRecycle
• Confederation of Paper Industries (CPI)
• Metal Packaging Manufacturers Association (MPMA)
• Alupro 
• Local Authorities Recycling Advisory Committee (LARAC)

WRAP’s Framework for Greater Consistency
These guidelines support WRAP’s industry framework for greater consistency in household recycling in England, which was published in September. This includes a joint vision whereby every household is able to recycle a common set of materials and food waste collected in one of three ways by 2025. It is hoped that these guidelines can help to bring about consistency not just in terms of the materials collected but also provide clarification on the specific items that can be recycled.

About WRAP

  1. WRAP’s vision is a world where resources are used sustainably. We work with businesses, individuals and communities to help them reap the benefits of reducing waste, developing sustainable products and using resources in an efficient way.
  2. Established as a not-for-profit company in 2000, WRAP is backed by government funding from England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
  3. Recycle Now is a campaign to encourage people to recycle more things more often from all around the home.
  4. More information on all of WRAP's programmes can be found on and for more information on the Recycle Now campaign visit

Clare Usher

PR Officer
01295 819678