Setting out the UK’s vision for best in class design in rigid household plastic packaging. Includes plastic packaging currently classed as recyclable and the ambition for recycled content. 

Updated Guidance: November 2022 

Key points

  • Guidance for packaging designers and specifiers.
  • Design packaging for optimal recyclability.
  • Listing which household rigid plastics are considered recyclable. 
  • Featuring new updates - published in December 2022.

Importance of the guidance

Plastic packaging can play an important role in protecting products we buy, like food. Waste from these products generally has a far greater carbon impact than the packaging itself. However, where plastic packaging is essential we must ensure that it is kept within a circular economy and out of the natural environment.

Adhering to this guidance will ensure that packaging is designed to be ‘best in class’ to ensure that it is recyclable under the current UK recycling infrastructure. It will help increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the UK recycling system while helping to reduce confusion amongst the public over what can be recycled.

Adoption of this guidance will also increase the availability of good quality recycled content, currently a key barrier to achieving 30% average recycled content across all plastic packaging - one of the four targets under The UK Plastics Pact. Enabling more plastic to get recycled will improve the availability of recycled plastic for packaging producers and displace the need to use virgin plastic material derived from oil. 

What's new? 

The guide now features our five tests for recyclability and our red, amber, green matrix for packaging materials and formats: 

The 5 tests of recyclability

  1. Can the consumer recognise the packaging (or product) as recyclable?
  2. Is the packaging (or product) widely collected for recycling? (The OPRL threshold used is that more than 75% of local authorities collect the material for recycling). 
  3. Is the packaging (or product) capable of being sorted?
  4. Is the packaging (or product) capable of being made into something new?
  5. Is the process financially viable? That is, is there a commercially viable end-market for the material?

Read more in the guide

Packaging preferred materials and formats guidelines

A red, amber, green list of preferred materials and formats for plastic packaging.

Red - Materials or formats that are disruptive to recycling in the UK and/or considered not recyclable.

Amber - To be used where functional requirements are not met by materials or formats in the green listings. Not all the items in this list are currently widely recycled

Green - Preferred for recycling in the UK via kerbside collection or retailer front of store collection points.

Read more in the guide

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  • Polymer choice and recyclability guidance: Updated Dec 2022

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