‘The Dirty Dozen’

New research from DS Smith reveals that despite their best intentions, over a third (36%) of people in the UK don’t believe that their recycling efforts have an impact the environment.

The company found that that almost half (48%) of consumers don’t think that packaging in the UK is easily recyclable, with two thirds (67%) saying that there is a lot of conflicting advice on recycling and a similar number (60%) saying that the disposal instructions on items are hard to find.

Analysis from the Kemsley paper mill has revealed its ‘Dirty Dozen’ – the top 12 items that are harder to recycle when put into mixed or paper recycling streams. According to the research, conducted in partnership with YouGov, the most common Dirty Dozen items put in the recycling bin are junk mail (72%), food trays (38%) and pulp fruit trays (28%) – with soup cartons (21%) and crisp tubes (18%) also making an appearance.

Rogier Gerritsen, Managing Director, DS Smith Recycling, said, “While many people are doing their best to recycle commonly used items, the problem starts way before then in how a product is made. Our Circular Design Principles ensure that recyclability is built in at the start of the process, not at the end.

“By designing packaging which reduces the number of different components used and contains labelling that is easier for customers to understand, we increase the quality of the recyclable products and reduce the current volume of materials that are rejected. We are working with our customers and others in the industry to help achieve this so that we can create a truly circular economy.”

The full ‘Dirty Dozen’ are the top 12 items that are cause for concern when put into recycling streams:

  1. Junk Mail
  2. Food trays
  3. Pulp fruit trays (e.g. Apple trays)
  4. Food cartons (e.g. soup)
  5. Crisp Tubes
  6. Glittery gift wrap and greetings cards
  7. Padded envelopes
  8. Sandwich wrappers
  9. Insulated food delivery packaging
  10. Coffee bags / pouches
  11. Wax / silicone papers
  12. Fast food soft drink cups

Plastic and other contamination can cause significant challenges at paper mills, adding additional costs and waste into paper making. There is also a significant environmental impact, with large volumes of plastic ending up in paper recycling streams – in 2021 alone, the equivalent of 391 million bin bags of plastic contamination was collected at Kemsley Mill which can end up being burnt or landfilled if other recycling options cannot be found.

To help improve the quality of recycling in the UK, 50% of consumers said they would like to see clearer labelling on products in stores, one in two (49%) would like more fibre-based (cardboard/paper) packaging options on supermarket shelves and 40% would rather use multiple bins for different types of rubbish if it meant that more of their items could be recycled.

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