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OPRL celebrates its first 10 years

A recycling label from OPRLThe On-Pack Recycling Label (OPRL) scheme is celebrating 10 years since its foundation in 2009 with the aim of engaging consumers more actively in recycling through simple visual cues on packaging.

OPRL was originally set up by leading members of the British Retail Consortium and the Food and Drink Federation in partnership with the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), and has seen its coverage and membership grow significantly, reaching 333 members in February this year and with more than 600 brands using the label system on their products’ packaging.

The on-pack labeling system was even referred to in the government’s Resources and Waste Strategy, released in December 2018, as an exemplar of how to make recycling easier for consumers.

The labeling system uses three categories to inform consumers of the recyclability of an item of packaging. These are:

  1. Widely recycled – 75 per cent or more of UK local authorities collect that type of packaging;
  2. Check local recycling – between 20 and 75 per cent of UK local authorities collect that type of packaging; and
  3. Not currently recycled – fewer than 20 per cent of UK local authorities collect that type of packaging.

OPRL has experienced significant expansion in recent times, with a number of high profile names joining as members or guarantors.

The European Recycling Platform UK became the latest industry body to join forces with OPRL in January this year, while INCPEN (the Industry Council for Packaging and the Environment) became a guarantor of the scheme in September 2018, joining ACE UK (the Alliance for Beverage Cartons and the Environment), CPI (the Confederation of Paper Industries), LARAC (the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee) and plastics recyclers RECOUP.

In August of last year, Ecosurety became the first compliance scheme to join forces with OPRL, closely followed by Valpak in September, while Stuart Lendrum became the new OPRL Executive Director in April.

Meanwhile, OPRL has also launched new online and member support services over the last 18 months, including a label artwork library, a tool to help members identify the correct labels and a matrix tool to aid in building an accurate label.

Commenting on the tenth anniversary of OPRL’s foundation, Karen Graley, founding director and Packaging and Reprographics Manager at Waitrose, said: "That early, relatively small collaboration of a few dozen retailers and brands was an important step in providing consistent, clear and simple recycling advice to consumers. Ten years and over 300 additional members later, we have gained recognition with three in four people now acting on our labels, making us the most widely recognised and understood recycling label in the UK."

Jane Bevis, founding director and now Chair of OPRL, added: "Our recent surveying shows more than four in five people check packaging often or periodically for advice on recycling, even when they're pretty confident about what to recycle – they expect to see our labels there. Over the last six years we've consistently scored as the best understood and acted on recycling labelling system. We're the industry standard. No wonder brands, retailers, packaging designers and manufacturers, supply chain partners and compliance schemes are flocking to join OPRL.”

As part of its 10th anniversary celebrations OPRL is sponsoring the Ecopack Stage and Big Plastics Debate at the Packaging Innovations Show in Birmingham (as well as a dinner and drinks reception for its founding members), the Ambassadors Lunch at the Packaging Innovations Show and the Design Team of the Year Award at the 2019 UK Packaging Awards.

OPRL has come a long way in a short space of time, as Stuart Lendrum, founding director and now Executive Director of OPRL, commented: "We started with a pretty basic website and a pdf of our Labelling Guidelines back in 2009, supported by WRAP, the BRC and FDF.

"Now we have an increasingly sophisticated online offer, with tools for members such as PREP UK which aids designing for recyclability, to our labelling tool drawing on an extensive artwork library, and our supply chain supporters showcase to help members find wider solutions – from packaging designers and manufacturers to compliance schemes, data services and technical consultancies. On completion of the pilot of our consumer recycling app as part of the #LeedsByExample project we'll be adding that as a full optional service to members.

"Combined with support from our guarantors ACE UK, CPI, INCPEN, LARAC and RECOUP, these developments have helped us become the industry standard sought out by businesses of all sizes, and from all sectors in the packaging world."

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