OPRL labels heading for “Yes/No” recycling advice

OPRL, the market-leading recycling label not-for-profit, is launching a new “binary labelling system”.

Until now, the OPRL label has had three categories which tell consumers how likely it is that their local authority will accept specific packaging materials for recycling:

  • Widely recycled (75% or more of UK local authorities collect that type of packaging).
  • Check local recycling (between 20% and 75% of UK local authorities collect that type of packaging).
  • Not currently recycled (fewer than 20% of UK local authorities collect that type of packaging).

Under the new system most packaging will be designated simply “Recycle” and “Don’t Recycle”, depending on whether it is collected, sorted and processed and whether there is a market for the resulting recyclate.

Any material not collected by at least half of UK councils will automatically be labelled “Don’t Recycle” to avoid contamination problems.

Clear labelling on packaging is crucial to encourage citizens to recycle more materials correctly, more often

Responding to extensive consumer insight research, the new labels aim to be a simple and clear call to action.

The move follows the UK Governments’ favoured approach in the Extended Producer Responsibility consultations and supports achievement of The UK Plastics Pact recycling target.

The labels are modelled on consumer research insights, conducted as part of OPRL’s Labelling Rules review.

OPRL’s widely drawn Steering Group has developed new recycling rules, to be launched in January, which now take account of UK recycling infrastructure’s ability to sort, process and find markets for packaging materials, as well as the availability of council collection services.

These changes move the scheme in line with ISO 14021 for self-declared environmental claims such as recyclability, matching OPRL’s PREP UK tool.


Commenting on the move Jane Bevis, Chair of OPRL Ltd, said: “This move towards a binary label reflects both our wish to respond to consumer demands for clarity and the maturation of the UK’s collections system towards greater consistency. “

“Our research shows that while 84 percent of citizens check on-pack labels for recyclability, it’s a split-second glance for a Yes/No decision. Our new “Recycle” and “Don’t Recycle” labels will ensure more packaging gets into the recycling stream and will improve quality at the same time.

“That’s essential if we are to deliver on targets like the Plastics Pact commitment to almost double recycling of plastic packaging by 2025. As a key supporter of the Pact, with OPRL labelling widely used by many participating brands and retailers to activate recycling, we want our labels to drive a step change in behaviour.”

“We’re excited to be launching the new Rules and supporting tools for members once the Christmas rush is over. This has been a tremendous collaboration between industry experts and materials bodies and will be a great leap forward.”

Peter Maddox, director of WRAP UK, said: “Clear labelling on packaging is crucial to encourage citizens to recycle more materials correctly, more often. So we wholeheartedly welcome this evolution of the successful OPRL system, which will give citizens a straightforward call to action over whether they can recycle an item or not.

“This is closely aligned with our ambition under The UK Plastics Pact (of which OPRL is a supporter) to meet a 70 percent recycling rate for plastic packaging and is a key milestone in our roadmap to achieving this by 2025.”

“We are also pleased to see that the new system takes account of the entire recycling journey of a material, not just whether it is collected or not. This will help to ensure that packaging is designed for recyclability and maximise the opportunity for packaging to be recycled back into new packaging.”

“OPRL are an important strategic partner for WRAP and we will continue to work closely with them as the roll out of this new system takes shape.”

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