Analysis of retailers' front of store plastic film collection

23rd March 2015

The majority of local authorities in the UK do not collect plastic film and bags at their kerbside collection.

To facilitate the collection of this type of material, the On-Pack Recycling Label (OPRL) scheme developed a special label, applicable to all plastic film packaging made of polyethylene, to be accepted at existing retailers front of store (FOS) collection points for carrier bags.

On-Pack Recycling Label

Summary of statistics

Composition analysis of FOS collection points

This latest research was undertaken to identify what was being collected at FOS collection points for plastic film packaging. The overall aim was to determine the efficiency of OPRL in promoting the film recycling message to consumers, and to determine the typical levels of contamination of those collection points, looking at different retailers across the four UK nations. 

The research found that where a charge/levy for carrier bags was already in place, the quantity of plastic packaging collected was lower, and resulted in the proportion of unrequested materials becoming more evident (e.g. 40% in Wales and 60% in Northern Ireland). This could significantly reduce the value of this recycling stream and even contribute to the decision to remove the collection points from stores located in those areas.

It was also noted that the proportion of polyethylene bag packaging meeting the OPRL criteria was fairly consistent across all four nations. However, the overall quantities collected were slightly lower than requested material without the OPRL label. This may be due in part to the amount of relevant material still to be labelled. This shows that some consumers have the appetite to recycle plastic packaging even without the label, by association.