Analysis identifies 12 items contaminating paper recycling streams

New research from DS Smith has identified 12 everyday items that are being put into mixed or paper recycling streams, but are harder to recycle due to plastic and food contamination.

Paper and cardIn partnership with YouGov, the company has curated a ‘Dirty Dozen’ list of items causing issues at paper mills, often incurring additional costs and waste. The most common out of the 12 items are junk mail (72 per cent), food trays (38 per cent) and pulp fruit trays (28 per cent) – with soup cartons (21 per cent) and crisp tubes (18 per cent) also making an appearance.

The analysis highlights the scale of waste caused by plastic contamination, noting that, in 2021, the equivalent of 391 million bin bags of plastic contamination was collected at DS Smith’s Kemsley Mill, the company stating that this material often ends up being incinerated or landfilled if other recycling options cannot be found.

When surveying consumers, DS Smith found that over a third (36 per cent) of people in the UK don’t believe that their recycling efforts have an impact on the environment. The company also found that almost half (48 per cent) of consumers don’t think that packaging in the UK is easily recyclable. 67 per cent stated that there is a lot of conflicting advice on recycling with 60 per cent saying that the disposal instructions on items are hard to find.

To improve UK recycling, 50 per cent of consumers said they would like to see clearer labelling on products in stores, one in two (49 per cent) would like more fibre-based (cardboard/ paper) packaging options on supermarket shelves and 40 per cent would rather use multiple bins if it means that more items can be recycled.

Rogier Gerritsen, Managing Director at DS Smith Recycling said: “While many people are doing their best to recycle commonly used items, the problem starts way before then in how a product is made. Our Circular Design Principles ensure that recyclability is built in at the start of the process, not at the end”.

“By designing packaging which reduces the number of different components used and contains labelling that is easier for customers to understand, we increase the quality of the recyclable products and reduce the current volume of materials that are rejected. We are working with our customers and others in the industry to help achieve this so that we can create a truly circular economy.”