New Environment Secretary, Theresa Villiers, plans to introduce a clearer labelling system to make it easier to separate recyclables from non-recyclable waste.

The current labelling system for packaging includes dozens of symbols which is too confusing for consumers and holding back the recycling rate, according to Villiers.

Speaking to The Times newspaper, she said: “The means of delivering increased rates of recycling is ensuring that people have a better understanding of what is recyclable and how to do it. This is an important issue for us as government. We are working on clearer labels.”

A survey carried out by packaging representatives INCPEN and waste charity WRAP, backs up the Environment Secretary and shows the British public would support a nationalised recycling standard — consumer concerns over food packaging in particular have increased in recent years.

On-Pack Recycling Label Ltd (OPRL), which oversees the current system, has also launched a review into its labelling rules which, for the first time, will take into account recycling infrastructure which would consider the whole recycling process. OPRL group members include representatives from Nestlé, WRAP, Co-op and Ecosurety.

The general consensus is that consumers are confused over the various labels and colour coding that state what can and cannot be recycled. David Palmer-Jones, CEO of SUEZ Recycling and Recovery UK, said: "A purchase by colour and recycle by numbers system solves the twin challenge of empowering consumers to make more sustainable choices and harmonising bin collection systems, making it simpler to recycle without having to spend a fortune on new ‘binfrastructure’.

Last reviewed 8 August 2019