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News - 21 November 2009

Recycling label to reduce confusion

The fiftieth company has signed up to a new, universal on-pack recycling label launched seven months ago by the British Retail Consortium (BRC). Over this time participants have put the label on 50,000 different product lines.

Recent signatories include Pepsi, London 2012 and Yeo Valley. Over 85% of grocery retail by turnover has signed up and a large proportion of non-food retailers have too. A list of members is available at

It’s the first time customers have been provided with standardised information to replace the, potentially confusing, range of symbols previously used. The on-pack label is designed to increase recycling rates by telling customers how likely it is that a particular piece of packaging can be recycled where they live.

Two-thirds of consumers recognise the ‘recycle now swoosh’ on which the on-pack labels are based and it is used by over 90% of local authorities. The aim of the label is to increase the quality and quantity of household packaging currently being recycled.

Anyone who produces packaged products, such as retailers and brands, is being encouraged to participate.

The scheme is being operated by the BRC under a company called OPRL (On-Pack Recycling Label) Limited. WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) provides technical support and monitors the correct use of the label, as well as reviewing changes in local authorities’ recycling capabilities which will determine the labelling category each packaging material falls into.

The new on-pack recycling label has three categories depending on how likely it is that a customer’s local authority will accept specific packaging materials for recycling:

  • Widely recycled;
  • Check local recycling;
  • Not currently recycled.

Dan Norris Environment Minister said, “Retailers and the food and packaging industry are essential in encouraging people to recycle and reduce waste. It is great to see the On-Pack Recycling Label being taken forward so enthusiastically by retailers, and food producers which will help people in recycling their packaging. I hope many more businesses follow their example.”

Stephen Robertson, British Retail Consortium Director General, said, “This is a vote of confidence from retailers and brands in this new recycling label.

“Customer confusion is the biggest barrier to improving recycling rates. Replacing a potentially confusing array of symbols and messages with a single logo will help customers recycle more of what can already be recycled.

“This scheme has the power to make a real difference. All businesses that use packaging should join, as the on-pack label moves to becoming an industry standard.”

Liz Goodwin, WRAP Chief Executive, said, “I applaud the leadership that these fifty companies have shown and encourage others to follow. Consumer confusion is a major barrier to the UK increasing its recycling rates and the retail sector needs to collectively adopt this voluntary scheme to enable all of us to recycle more often.”

Read related items on:
British Retail Consortium
Goodwin, Liz
Norris, Dan
Robertson, Stephen

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