Over the past 20 years England has seen its recycling rate increase significantly from 11% in 2001 to 42% in 2022 however, over recent years recycling rates have plateaued at around 42%-44%. To address this the Government aims to improve and simplify collection requirements through the 2021 Environment Act.
Initially the reforms were known as ‘Consistency in Collections’ however, to reflect the emphasis on simplicity the legislation is now known as ‘Simpler Recycling’.
Update in a Snapshot
Dry recyclable waste streams
Plastic and metal, and glass and metal will be collected together. The dry recyclable waste streams (excluding plastic film) must be collected from households by the end of the financial year in which payments to local authorities for packaging materials under EPR will begin (the first EPR payment from packaging producers is scheduled for October 2025).
This material must be collected by all Local Authorities by 31st March 2026.
The following materials must be collected in the dry recyclable waste streams, from both households and non-household premises.
- glass packaging including bottles and jars
- steel and aluminium tins and cans
- steel and aluminium aerosols
- aluminium foil
- aluminium food trays
- steel and aluminium jars and bottle lids
- aluminium tubes
- plastic bottles made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET, including amorphous, recycled PET), polypropylene (PP) and high-density polyethylene (HDPE)
- pots, tubs and trays made of PET (including amorphous, recycled and crystalline PET), PP (including expanded PP) and polyethylene (PE)
- PE and PP plastic tubes larger than 50mm x 50mm
- cartons for food, drink and other liquids, including aseptic and chilled cartons
- plastic film packaging and plastic bags made of mono-polyethylene (mono-PE), mono-polypropylene (mono-PP) and mixed polyolefins PE and PP, including those metallised through vacuum or vapour deposition (to be included from 31 March 2027)
Paper and card
All paper and card except:
- paper and card that contains glitter or foil
- paper that is laminated
- stickers and sticky paper
- padded lined envelopes
- paperback and hardback books
The Government intends to include plastic film packaging and plastic bags made from mono-PE, mono-PP and mixed polyolefins PE and PP in the plastic waste recyclable waste stream.
Local Authorities will be required to collect this material by 31st March 2027.
Collection of food waste from households and non-household municipal premises
Under the new legislation, Local Authorities in England must arrange a weekly collection of food waste for recycling or composting from households.
All non-household municipal premises in England must arrange for the separate collection of food waste however, they are not required to have weekly collections.
Local Authorities will be required to introduce weekly food waste collections to all households in England by 31st March 2026.
The same materials will be included in both household and non-household municipal premises. The following materials will be included in the food waste stream:
- all food intended for human or household pet consumption, regardless of whether it has any nutritional value
- biodegradable material resulting from the processing or preparation of food, including inedible food parts such as bones, eggshells, fruit and vegetable skins, tea bags and coffee grounds
Garden waste service for households
During the consultation analysis, Government considered the benefits and financial impacts of free garden waste collection services however, it has been decided that although authorities will be required to offer garden waste collection, they will remain a chargeable service.
Local Authorities will be required to collect garden waste by 31 March 2026.
The following items will be included in the garden waste stream. All organic material from the garden except:
- full-sized trees
- invasive weeds and species
- soil turf cuttings
- waste products of animal origin
The Simpler Recycling reforms are a part of the UKs 2018 Resources and Waste strategy which also includes reforms such as Extended Producer Responsibility for Packaging, DRS and the Plastic Packaging Tax. Many of these legislative reforms interact with one another to achieve the joint goal of increased recycling rates and improving resource efficiency.
EPR for Packaging requires packaging producers to fund the full net cost of the collection, treatment and sorting of packaging waste. These reforms (Simpler Recycling), ensure that producers are paying for efficient and effective collection services.
The Simpler Recycling Government consultation response stipulates that Local Authorities must collect specific household and non-household materials by the end of the first year that authorities receive their EPR waste management payments (2026). Earlier this year, Defra announced it would be deferring EPR producer payments to October 2025, previously October 2024. If we see further delays in the rollout of EPR this could impact the Simpler Recycling timelines.
For materials that fall within the scope of the UKs Deposit Return Scheme(s), these will be collected on kerbside until the commencement of UK DRS which is scheduled for March 2025. Once the schemes are operating, these materials can be returned by consumers through the DRS.
In-scope DRS materials are as follows (for England only):
- steel and aluminium cans
- PET plastic bottles up to 3 litres in size