Image of front page of WRAP Gate Fees Report 22-23 with picture of recycling on conveyor

WRAP's response to Simpler Recycling and recycling tracker information

21 October 2023

WRAP’s response to Simpler Recycling

Claire Shrewsbury, Director of Insights and Innovation at WRAP, “It’s good to see the publication of the Government’s response to its recycling consultation, and the inclusion of the six key materials and universal food waste collections in England. Making recycling simpler will make it easier to run nationwide communications campaigns to ramp up the recycling rate, and removes the postcode lottery of what’s in, what’s out. And encouraging that more than 2.2 million businesses will now be required to separate their waste for recycling.

“However, continuing to have comingled collections means that many material recycling facilities, which receive this mixed material, will need to look at investment and upgrading to ensure they can produce the quality recyclate required. But for local authorities, today gives clearer direction and more certainty they need to make important investment decisions around their own operations, with a timeline. WRAP will work with trade bodies and local authorities to make any transition as seamless as possible through our tools, technical support, and resources.”

Useful background information and resources

The Recycle Now Recycling Tracker

The Recycling Tracker surveys UK households annually to gather evidence on recycling attitudes, knowledge, and behaviour. ​It’s the largest and longest running of its kind (since 2004). ​Fieldwork from 20 - 30 March 2023. A total of 5,343 interviews were undertaken with UK adults. The survey provides the sector with insights on the intended user of the recycling reforms, supporting governments, Local Authorities, and waste collectors with an understanding of the barriers and motivators that citizens face when participating in the system. Key findings: 

  • Recycling is an established and normalised behaviour - 90% of UK citizens regularly recycle
  • Whilst common across the UK there’s still more to do. The latest research reveals a pattern of incremental but positive improvements in behaviour. These are largely driven by reduced contamination especially for plastic wrapping, film and pouches, with corresponding increases in the recycling rates of these items at front of store.
  • Over half (53%) miss opportunities to recycle common items (which increases to 80% if we include glass perfume and aftershave bottles).
  • Contamination remains at high levels - 81% dispose of an item in the recycling when it is not accepted locally (37% for serious contaminants).
  • On average, UK citizens dispose of 5.4 items incorrectly. A significant improvement since 2021 (6.1 items) but consistent with recent waves.
  • The Recycle Now ‘Swoosh’ and On-Pack Recycling Labelling (OPRL) are widely recognised, especially in Wales (75% of citizens).
  • Across the UK, close to two in five (39%) have and use a food recycling service. A further one in five (18%) have a service but do not use it. Around two in five (43%) say they do not have a service.  
  • Attitudes to food waste recycling are largely positive. Amongst other statements, 85% agree that it is their responsibility as citizens to recycle their food waste. Both Wales and Northern Ireland have significantly higher levels of use compared to England.
  • Key barriers to food waste recycling include smells (19%), leaks and spills from the liner (16%), and flies/maggots (15%). Non-users are much more likely to cite these barriers. Those who have a higher disgust sensitivity are more likely to cite these barriers too. 
  • Food waste recycling continues to have a weaker norm compared to dry recycling.

Recycle Week – 16th to 22nd October 2023

  • CBBC presenter, Mwaksy Mudenda has been named Recycle Week 2023 ambassador for ‘The Big Recycling Hunt’, which promises to shine a light on items that people forget to recycle.
  • Mwaksy will help raise awareness of the importance of recycling among children aged 5 to 11, throughout Recycle Week.
  • Oakdale Junior School who have been selected as the first-ever Recycling Youth Ambassadors, will be visited by WRAP’s CEO Harriet Lamb and Mwaksy Mudenda to celebrate their achievement.

Twenty years of recycling – some highlights

Produced by WRAP’s Recycle Now campaign, this is a walk through two decades of recycling history and see how far we’ve come…

Official Recycling Statistics – UK recycling rates is 44.6% (2021). See details below.

Notes to Editor

WRAP is a climate action NGO working around the globe to tackle the causes of the climate crisis and give the planet a sustainable future. Our vision is a thriving world in which climate change is no longer a problem. We believe that our natural resources should not be wasted and that everything we use should be re-used and recycled. We bring together and work with governments, businesses and individuals to ensure that the world’s natural resources are used more sustainably. Our core purpose is to help tackle climate change and protect our planet by changing the way things are produced, consumed and disposed of. Our work includes: UK Plastics Pact, Courtauld Commitment 2030, Textiles 2030 and the citizen campaigns Love Food Hate Waste and Recycle Now. We run Food Waste Action Week and Recycle Week.