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The Recycling Tracker is the largest and longest running survey on recycling attitudes, values and behaviours.

The October 2020 wave was undertaken with a total of 4,729 UK adults from 23-31 October 2020 (prior to the England-wide second lockdown and coinciding with “circuit break” restrictions in both Wales and Northern Ireland).

Overall, the survey demonstrates the following:

  • Self-reported recycling has increased across the UK in 2020: 89% say they regularly recycle (up from 87% in March) and 56% say they are recycling more in the past year.
  • There are still opportunities to increase recycling. Just over half (56%) of households dispose of items in the general rubbish that could be collected for recycling from their home – most notably foil and aerosols. 
  • There is a pressing need to address contamination. Four in five (80%) UK households put items in their recycling that are not collected locally – most notably plastic film and wrapping, toothpaste tubes and drinking/cookware glass. Some items have increased across 2020, including plastic carrier bags and bubble wrap (as other disposal routes have been harder to access).
  • UK citizens want more instructional information about what they can and can’t recycle in their kerbside collection. Almost half (44%) say they are not satisfied with the clarity of this information and it is the aspect of their waste and recycling service that they rate the lowest. This supports one of the key findings from the March 2020 wave that uncertainty about what can and can’t be recycled is a key barrier to UK citizens recycling more.
  • UK-wide effective recycling is associated with the following scheme characteristics:
    • A restricted/limited capacity for general rubbish
    • A higher number of materials collected for recycling
    • A food waste recycling service
    • A “multi-stream” recycling scheme where residents sort recycling into different containers
    • A service that collects small waste electricals and textiles.
    • The best performing households live in Welsh “Collections Blueprint” areas that provide a clear and consistent recycling service.
  • Recycle Now assets are playing a key role. Those who have seen or engaged with Recycle Now are significantly more likely to report increased recycling more in the past year. For example, over four in five (83%) of those who have used the Recycling Locator in 2020 report increased recycling. This is also true of 82% of those who heard/saw Recycle Week 2020 and 75% of those who have seen Britain Recycle and/or Britain Does in the past year.
  • What is also clear is that the campaign materials are useful at accessing different audiences. In particular, Britain Recycles, Britain Does and Recycle Week have higher recognition among key underperforming audiences such as 18-34s, those in urban areas, and those disposing of more items incorrectly.

In summary, there is a pressing need in 2021 to better guide and direct citizens recycling efforts to minimise contamination.

WRAP is asking all of our partners to help:

  • Embed the Recycling Locator on websites
  • Use the Recycle Now Resource Library 
  • Provide clear instructional information on what can and can’t be recycled locally
  • Work towards collecting a common set of dry recyclables and food waste.

Previous reports

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  • Key findings from the Recycling Tracker 2020

    PDF, 429.7 KB

  • Recycling Tracker report 2020: March 2020

    PDF, 1.03 MB

  • Recycling Tracker Report: October 2020

    PDF, 1.11 MB