The Recycle Now programme commissioned research to explore people’s barriers to recycling at home. This report forms part of our guidance to Local Authorities on how to create more informative, pursuasive and engaging communications campaigns

Key points

  • Helping people along this journey involves targeting messages that assist people in making that step up to the next level of competence


The objective of the research was to generate a more rigorous and in-depth understanding of what prevents householders from recycling. The research has led to some important fresh thinking about how different population groups might be engaged more effectively by recycling behaviour change programmes especially at a more local level.

WRAP has completed a review of research evidence to update and improve the evidence on barriers to recycling produced in 2008. The aim of the new work is to identify the extent to which the barriers to recycling have changed since WRAP’s 2008 research and to synthesise current knowledge of the principal barriers and the implications for overcoming them. The findings are supported by WRAP’s annual survey of householders reported recycling behaviours and motivations.

Since 2008 the recycling environment has developed rapidly in the UK. Recycling rates have improved, the kerbside recycling infrastructure and reprocessing technologies have evolved, the quality of recyclate is becoming more important, and the UK’s socio-demographic environment is changing. In the light of these changes some barriers have remained the same while in some areas there are new challenges to overcome.

Results summary

  • This research has shown the need for customisation and targeting of recycling promotional messages so that they link better to the different barriers faced by different segments of the population.
  • Barriers can be usefully divided into situational, behavioural, cognitive and attitudinal. Promotional communications initiatives can address the latter three barriers but should not be applied in isolation from steps to make the practical (situational) environment conducive to recycling. „
  • People’s journey along the road to becoming the ideal or ‘complete’ recycler involves them in a ‘learning and competence’ process.
  • Helping people along this journey involves targeting messages that assist people in making that step up to the next level of competence.
  • WRAP’s committed recycler metric is useful in highlighting the barriers faced by non-recyclers and recyclers not yet reaching the ‘committed recycler’ status.
  • However, it has also highlighted the barriers that nevertheless remain within the committed recycler group. Committed recyclers can still progress and recycle more things more often.
  • We have proposed sub-dividing committed recyclers into standard committed and super-committed, so that the different forms of barrier relating to these two sub-groups can be more effectively targeted.
  • It is evident that even amongst super-committed recycler population there is still around a fifth who believes they could recycle more things more often.
  • We have outlined the types of people commonly found at the different levels of competence, and the types of messages and communication media most suited to supporting people in making that next step up.

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  • Barriers to recycling at home - full report

    PDF, 822.39 KB

  • Barriers to recycling at home - technical report

    PDF, 1.59 MB