OPRL says PVC and PS no longer recyclable packaging

OPRL packaging recycling label
The OPRL packaging recycling label

Packaging recycling label organisation OPRL has developed new rules that mean there mostly becomes a binary Recycle or Don’t Recycle label.

While there will be a small amount of exceptions that will retain the Check Home Collections status, the majority of packaging where it is collected by 75% of local authorities to be turned into new packaging will receive Recycle status. Where fewer than 50% of packaging is collected by local authorities, then the label will say Don’t Recycle.


For plastics, the new rules mean that NIR detectable coloured aPET/rPET and cPET, plus NIR detectable black PP for some uses will be labelled Recycle in future.

But PVC and PS will be labelled as Don’t Recycle.

For laminated paper, a maximum of 15% plastic content will be introduced immediately for Recycle status, reducing to 10% by 2023.

Coffee cups will receive a special label to support in-store collections for recycling.

Co-op environment manager and OPRL steering group member Iain Ferguson said: “Consumers increasingly want clearer information on what to do with their packaging. We welcome all moves that simplify messaging around correct disposal routes and hope that OPRL’s latest review will help drive better habits and more informed action among the UK population.”

OPRL board director and chair of the steering group Stuart Lendrum added: “The results deliver on commitment to give consumers clarity on the true recyclability of packaging. As part of that commitment to transparency and accountability, we are making our evidence base available publicly available today.

“As further new evidence becomes available, we will fine tune these rules so that we reflect the UK’s developing recycling technology and infrastructure, and further refining of industry technical standards.”

While broadly welcoming the new rules on the packaging recycling label, The Recycling Association chief executive Simon Ellin had some concerns about what this would mean for quality.

He said: “This move by OPRL means recycling will be much easier to understand for the public.

“Once the upcoming Environment Bill is published, hopefully we will also see the plans that were drawn up in the Resources & Waste Strategy that would mean retailers and manufacturers create packaging that is easy to recycle too. When combined with the OPRL labelling, this will lead to much higher quality recycling.

“However, for our members, the decision that coated paper and card products have a 15% plastic tolerance and 10% tolerance by 2023 should have been more ambitious, especially as this doesn’t even meet the CPI/WRAP guidelines on laminates. With innovations in packaging technology over the next few years, we should aim to get this down to zero lamination as soon as possible.

“While it is mostly positive that three polymer types move from Check Locally to Recycle and PVC and PS will be in Don’t Recycle, there is a risk that some of the permitted polymer types include products such as sandwich boxes that are hard to recycle. We need to be very careful that this does not lead to much greater contamination of the plastic recycling stream.

“However, this choice of three polymers does provide clarity to the consumer, but also means local authorities can have standardised plastic collections, and manufacturers have a list of standard polymers to use. It does require both to make rapid strides to ensure that quality is put first.

“With Recycle meaning that ‘75% of local authorities collect that type of packaging which is then effectively sorted, processed and sold as recyclate for use in new packaging or products’, we would urge those that are in the 25% to match their counterparts and effectively standardise core material collection. That way, this commendable work from OPRL will mean consumers all over the UK can recycle their packaging at home in confidence.”

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