Carrots wrapped in flexible plastic packaging

Plastic bags and wrapping

The complex challenges we must unpick 

Plastic bags and wrapping like bread bags and crisp packets are generally a resource efficient material; they are lightweight and can play an important role in protecting food from becoming waste, however the system for recycling this material in the UK is fragmented and in need of urgent transformation. 

A coordinated effort involving the entire value chain is required to fix the system to create a circular economy for plastic bags and wrapping.


We throw away around 290,000 tonnes of plastic bags and wrapping every year in the UK. 

This material makes up nearly a quarter of consumer packaging, yet only 6% is recycled. 

We all have a role to play 

Recycling your plastic bags and wrapping at supermarkets

A new citizen campaign to boost the amount of plastic bags and wrapping collected for recycling. A key stepping stone on the journey to consistent kerbside collections nationwide.

Repeat the Cycle

We must focus our efforts in: 

  • Designing packaging that can be recycled and sorted.

  • In the short term, increasing the number of front of store collection points provided by many supermarkets.

  • In the long term, implementing collection at kerbside in all local authority areas.

  • Investing in sorting and reprocessing capacity and capabilities.

  • Ensuring recycled plastic bags and wrapping has strong and stable end markets.

Essential guidance for businesses

Recycling your customers' plastic bags and wrapping

Read our guide for retailers

Creating a circular economy for flexible plastic packaging

Read our roadmap to 2025

Non-mechanical recycling of plastic

Non-mechanical recycling technologies may be vital in achieving not only the 70% effective recycling rate but also enabling the average 30% recycled content of packaging.

Read our market study

Eliminating problem plastics

Plastics play an important role in our daily lives and can often play a critical role, for instance, in protecting food and preventing food waste. But we must take urgent action where the use of plastic is problematic or unnecessary, to stop the issues plastic presents to our environment.

Non-mechanical recycling - the opportunities and challenges

Essential viewing for businesses looking to gain knowledge and understanding of the potential opportunities for materials which are hard to recycle via mechanical recycling.


Other resources

  • Polymer choice guidance

    Read the guide
  • CEFLEX logo

    A circular economy for flexible packaging (CEFLEX)

    Guidance designed by and for the entire value chain.

    Visit site