UK public need clarity on changes to recycling policy

The UK Government plans to introduce “Simpler Recycling” for households from 2026, with local authorities across England given a single list of materials that they must collect for recycling. However, polling shows that the public is unaware of the change and what it will mean for their local recycling collections. Of the 27% aware of the changes, most have a poor grasp of what the policy will entail.

Despite a lack of awareness about the wider policy, the research shows that consumers want to do the right thing – 80% of them check whether an item is recyclable using local recycling guidance or on-pack labels, and 71% say they do what the packaging tells them to do some or all of the time.

It was also found that most people prefer clear on-pack labels or council leaflets (66%) to present information about recyclability – rather than social media or TV campaigns (22%). And 71% of them say they do what the packaging says all or some of the time.

Sonoco is supportive for government leaders to take actions to improve communication about upcoming change and ensure the policy is comprehensive across all recyclable materials.

Skye Oudemans, Sustainability Manager, Sonoco, said, “It’s clear that the public want clear guidance on what they can and can’t recycle – and are happy to pay attention to this guidance so they can do the right thing. But these results show that there’s some work for the next Government to do to communicate the upcoming changes with the public. Meanwhile, there’s an opportunity in this General Election campaign to put popular waste and resources policy at the heart of party proposals: the UK’s recycling policy should be simple, but it should also be ambitious, and we need to collect and recycle as much material as possible.”

Scott Byrne, Director of Global Sustainability Services, Sonoco, added, “While Defra has done a lot of work on the recycling policy itself, the public are still unaware of the upcoming changes. There’s an opportunity throughout the General Election campaign for parties to set out bold and clear waste and resources policy – and Sonoco is calling on all parties to be ambitious, work with industry, and help to deliver a recycling system that raises the UK’s recycling rates.”

Paul Vanston, CEO, INCPEN, said, “When the Government sets out clear guidance about what consumers should do with their packaging, the public listen and do the right thing. With the General Election campaign ongoing, all parties now have an opportunity to set out an ambitious vision for the waste and resources policy agenda, and we hope that they’ll start to do that soon. Post-election, we call on whoever makes up the next government to provide clarity to both industry and the general public as soon as possible, so that we can start to make inroads into boosting recycling rates.”

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