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Packaging has become a big issue, both for householders and for the environment. Packaging serves a critical purpose to ensure that:

  • consumers are able to get the products they want in the right condition
  • products can be economically transported and displayed
  • the right information about products is provided to consumers
  • the product appearance reflects the consumers expectation for value and cost
  • the product can be displayed and sold securely and without risk of causing harm or environmental damage

But packaging also has to be minimised under European Regulations to ensure that it is recyclable and that only as much is used as is required to meet the requirements above. This is therefore a very delicate balancing act for those that manufacture or import products and those that sell them. Packaging has also become an extremely hot political potato with constant bombardment of politicians by the public over what is perceived to be over packaging.

Any business that makes fills or sells packaging is required to register under the Packaging Waste (Producer Responsibility) Regulations 2007. These impose a cost onto those businesses to ensure that the UK continues to increase the amount of packaging waste that is collected and recycled. Since these Regulations started in 1998, the UK has seen the amount of packaging recycled increase from less than 3m tonnes in 1997 to nearly 7m tonnes in 2015. This equates to around 65% of all the packaging that is placed on the market, a figure that pushes the UK well up the European league of recycling performance.

But more can be done. Most households now have access to recycling collections enabling consumers to get at least some of their packaging waste recycled. In addition, there are still ‘bring bank’ sites in supermarket car parks and scattered around the country in various locations accessible to the public. And there is a network of Civic Amenity sites that allows any member of the public to dispose of their household waste no matter what it is. These operate very high levels of recycling and will ensure that most types of packaging get recycled.

Of course, not all packaging is easily recycled everywhere in the country. Council collection scheme vary hugely and it is often very difficult to get plastic food containers recycled, for instance. But pressure is growing both from Europe and within the UK to increase facilities that will eventually ensure that all types of packaging are kept out of landfill.

The European Union is formulating new targets that will require the UK to recycle 10% more packaging by 2025. This will lead to higher recycling targets for both businesses and local authorities and householders will be expected to do more. Landfill contributes heavily to greenhouse gas emissions and the Government has a requirement to reduce the UK’s Carbon Footprint. So more recycling will equal less carbon being released to the atmosphere and less Global Warming.

Because there are so many different household waste recycling systems across the UK, it is impossible to generalise on exactly what can be recycled in which part of the country and you should check with your local authority what they will collect.

It is also possible to find out where there are recycling facilities for different materials by going to . This also gives clear instructions on what can and can’t be recycled and a host of other useful information.

You can also visit these other websites where you will find information about packaging, its uses, ways of getting it recycled and the Regulations that affect it. You can also find out more about what the Government is doing.

  • Industry Council for Packaging and the Environment (Incpen)
  • Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
  • RECOUP – Plastics packaging
  • Alupro – Aluminium can recycling

Government Waste Strategies



Northern Ireland

European Union