Truck moving recycled materials into piles in reprocessing unit

Collections and recycling

creating a circular economy

Driving greater consistency in household recycling

In the UK and around the world, countries are considering how to become more sustainable in the way they manage resources and waste.

The UK Government's Resources and Waste Strategy for England, published in December 2018, is a bold and radical blueprint for how to achieve this and has far-reaching implications for local authorities across England. It sets out a plan to manage resources more efficiently and minimise waste by shifting towards a more circular economy.

Proposals include a reform of the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for packaging regime, the introduction of Deposit Return Schemes and a tax on plastic packaging with less than 30% of recycled content. It also sets out a plan to improve and drive up recycling through ensuring consistency in collections, introducing weekly food waste collections and working with businesses and local authorities to improve municipal recycling.

The UK Government has recently affirmed that its policies remains aligned to the EU’s Circular Economy Package; part of which is to achieve a 65% municipal recycling rate by 2035.

 The issue

We have made good progress on recycling in England over the last two decades, with the recycling rate quadrupling from 11% to 44% between 2000 and 2020. However, most of that increase happened before 2010. Since then, progress has largely stalled.

Reaching a 65% target in the next 15 years won’t happen without radical change.

One important element of that change will come from more consistency in the materials that are collected by local councils, and in the ways that they collect them.

How will consistency help?

For example, at the moment virtually all councils across England collect plastic bottles for recycling. So drinks manufacturers can label their bottles as widely recycled, while householders can put them in the recycling bin with confidence that they will be recycled, wherever they live in the country.

The same is not true for other types of plastic packaging, such as pots, tubs and trays. These are collected for recycling by some councils, but others ask for them to go in the residual (black bag waste) bin. That means producers can’t label such packaging clearly, leading to confusion amongst householders.

The Government’s proposals for greater consistency in council collections will tackle this problem, making things easier for producers and consumers, and directly leading to higher recycling rates.

Benefits estimated by WRAP for the period from 2018–2025*

11.6mt of waste
Up to 11.6 million tonnes of materials and food waste collected for recycling over eight years, adding 7 percentage points to the household waste recycling rate for England.
13.2m households
13.2 million households (including flats) provided with a food waste collection service, and 1.1 million more households provided with a dry recycling service.
£33 million
Up to £33 million over eight years in reduced costs to reprocessors from not having to remove contamination from materials before processing.
5.1mt of CO2e
Improved environmental outcomes with up to 5.1 million tonnes CO2e avoided over eight years, benefiting the environment directly and supporting the UK's overall carbon budget targets.

Our vision

By 2025 packaging is designed to be recyclable, where practical, and environmentally beneficial, 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 different ways.

What is WRAP doing?

By working collaboratively to unlock these benefits, organisations working in the sector can contribute to the delivery of national targets for waste recycling, fulfilling our UK and international responsibilities to the environment. 

Recycling has become an everyday activity for many households, but we now need to build on this progress and make it easier for households to recycle more.

WRAP works with governments, local authorities, the waste management industry, businesses and retailers to make services and communications more effective, and improve the quantity and quality of materials collected for recycling.

Together we can bring about a step change in recycling rates and fully realise the value of recycled materials.

Working with local authorities and business

WRAP has been working across a number of key areas to develop resources, guidance and practical examples to assist local authorities and organisations - including the waste management industry, businesses and retailers, to improve the quantity and quality of materials collected for recycling.

  • Improving your collections and recycling processes 
  • Helping shape the policy that affects your services
  • Sharing reports and evidence-based research 
  • Providing world renowned citizen communications assets and tools 

Our work in action

WRAP has a successful track record supporting the industry, working with local authorities, communities and organisations to provide real measurable change. The video below shows what can happen to plastic when it's collected for recycling.


How can my organisation take action?

Key operational areas

Find guidance to improve your policies, processes and results across: contamination prevention; recycling in urban areas; HWRCs; service design; re-use and waste prevention; and commercial waste.

Find out more

Consistency in collections

Discover how you can benefit as a local authority or business from achieving greater consistency in your household recycling.

More about our consistency work

Markets and materials

Find out more about the recovered materials market and how we can help you to improve collection, sorting and reprocessing of organics and dry materials.

More out about markets

Technical support

Local Authorities

You can access free technical support and free resources from WRAP - helping you make your waste and recycling service the best it can be.

Find out more

Explore our citizen campaigns

Our citizen campaigns empower individuals to act, through inspiring messages and practical advice. We offer a range of free tools and assets designed to help increase engagement levels with citizens and organisations.