Resource Use

Public ‘frustration’ growing with lack of recycling information

The British public are frustrated at the lack of consistency and transparency surrounding recycling in the UK, and almost a quarter don’t trust councils to recycle their collections properly, a new national survey has found.

The survey, conducted by resource management company Viridor this summer, found that 66 per cent of respondents are ‘frustrated about not having enough educational materials on recycling’ and that 78 per cent are ‘frustrated that different councils recycle different things’.

In recent weeks, there has been a lot of focus, and a number of surveys from different organisations in the resource sector, on the barriers to improved recycling at the kerbside. The latest of these, Viridor’s ‘Recycling Index’ suggests that UK residents would like to recycle more than they currently do.

Similar results were presented by fellow waste management company SUEZ last week, which found that eight out of 10 British adults say they recycle all or the vast majority of the waste they know to be recyclable in their homes, despite the UK’s recycling rate flatlining at 45 per cent. Both surveys suggest that there is a desire among the public to make the most of recycling services, but that they need help to do so.


One of the main sources of frustration highlighted by Viridor’s survey is that residents want more information from both their councils and product producers to help them utilise their services correctly.

Public ‘frustration’ growing with lack of recycling information
Specifically, 64 per cent feel they don’t know enough about what they can actually recycle, particularly items like light bulbs, crisp packets, coffee cups, mobile phones and plastic wrapping. This confusion leads to less than half (49 per cent) of consumers feeling ‘very confident’ that they put different waste in the right bins. A lack of knowledge of what can or can’t be recycled through the council systems was also reported as a hindrance in the SUEZ survey.

In addition to the plethora of studies published by members of the industry, the topic of recycling collections has been highlighted in the past month by government data showing that the amount of recycling being rejected by processors, mainly due to contamination, has risen by 84 per cent in the past four years.  

This week, to coincide with National Recycle Week 2016, the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) suggested a potential solution to address confusion, contamination and lack of participation was in the form of a consistency framework for recycling collections.

Developed by WRAP and a steering group representing the breadth of the resource management industry, the plan is for every home in England to be able to recycle the same core group of materials by 2025, with a limited number of collection systems making it easier to participate in the services.

Lack of transparency

Although the Viridor survey was carried out prior to the news of increased rejection tonnages, a vast majority of respondents (73 per cent) said that they want more transparency about what happens to their waste.

The need for more details about the ongoing process of recycling is heightened by the lack of trust shown in local government and the waste management sector to ensure that recycling is done properly. Local councils suffer from particularly low levels of trust with only 24 per cent of those surveyed saying they trust them to recycle properly.

This reflects the results of a study focused on attitudes to end destinations information carried out by the Resource Association this summer, which found that almost half of the English public feel they would be more likely to recycle if given more information about the destinations and uses for their recycled materials.

Public ‘frustration’ growing with lack of recycling information

Public ‘need better systems and support’

Dan Cooke, Director of Communications & External Affairs at Viridor, commented: “The Recycling Index shows that the UK’s recycling story and progress is being challenged by ‘wrong stuff, wrong bin’. People across the UK want to recycle more stuff, and recognise the importance of doing so, but they need better systems and support to ensure the right stuff goes in the right bin every time.

“Viridor believes that greater transparency in the recycling and waste sector is crucial to rebuilding confidence with UK consumers to support them with recycling.

“We need to explain further how waste can be transformed into new products, the smart technology used to do it, and the jobs and investment opportunities more recycling can offer the UK economy.

“Viridor calls for new and ambitious thinking – from government and local authorities, the recycling sector, retailers and waste producers – that moves recycling, recovery and resource management closer to the needs of consumers and to a more productive economy.”

Viridor’s Recycling Index 2016 can be found on the company’s website.

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