Plastic packaging use and collection rates drop for first time


Household plastic

Year-on-year plastic packaging use and collection quantities have dropped for the first time, RECOUP’s annual UK Household Plastic Packaging Collection Survey estimates.

Plastic resource efficiency and recycling charity RECOUP’s survey estimates that there was around a 5% reduction in household plastic packaging placed on the market in the UK, around 70,000 tonnes. The survey estimates quantities collected by local authorities at the kerbside reduced by almost 30,000 tonnes, which also works out to around 5%.

However, Recoup says the development of kerbside provision has plateaued as 88% of UK local authorities collect plastic pots, tubs, and trays, which is the same percentage as in 2021. The survey also estimates that the collection of plastic films and flexibles dropped from 13% to 12%, making 2023 the sixth year in a row this has decreased.

Recoup says this amounts to a collection rate of 42% for all household plastic packaging – 63% for plastic bottles, 39% for plastic pots, tubs, and trays, and 7% for plastic films and flexibles. The UK’s overall recycling rate for plastic packaging from household and commercial sources is 52%, Recoup says.

This year’s survey has shown the reduction in packaging placed on the market.

Tom McBeth, Policy & Infrastructure Manager at RECOUP, commented: “This year’s survey has shown the reduction in packaging placed on the market. Whilst the collected material also dropped, in the context of the amount of material used, it shows a picture of stagnation in collection levels with service provision also remaining similar to the 2022 Survey.

“With the news of Simpler Recycling beginning to come into force in England from 2025, and some level of certainty in dates for material collection requirements, Deposit Return Schemes (DRS) and Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), it is important that local authorities are now able to understand the funding they will have to drive the collection of more plastic packaging from consumers.”

Recoup says that to negate the stagnation in household plastic collections estimated in its report the UK government should accelerate policy measures such as Simpler Recycling, EPR and DRS across the UK.

Rubbish collection liverpoolRecoup says its 2023 survey found that while local authorities are making “significant efforts” to communicate recycling specification to residents, more resource and focus is needed on plastic packaging citizen communications and behaviour change programmes.

RECOUP has also launched its UK Citizen Plastics Recycling Behaviours Insights Survey 2023 which indicates there has been an annual drop of 7% of citizens claiming to recycle plastic drink bottles every time, from 95% to 88%.

The survey estimates that 57% of local authorities conduct ongoing waste and recycling communication campaigns – 23% have done so in the last 12 months. Recoup says “significant inconsistency” remains in messaging, including around asking for lids to be on or off bottles, and packaging to be empty, rinsed, washed, flattened, or squashed.

There was a small increase in reject rates up to 37% for one local authority and an average of 14% across all respondents, which Recoup says reflects the need for better communication.

Send this to a friend