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OPRL Launches New Recycling Label Rules

The On-Pack Recycling Label (OPRL) has launched its new recycling label rules, moving the majority of packaging into a simplified labelling system of ‘Recycle’ or ‘Don’t Recycle’.

OPRL is an independent not-for-profit company established to help retailers and brands engage their customers in recycling. It operates the UK-wide On-Pack Recycling Label scheme used by over 420 member companies and charities.

The new OPRL labelling rules aim to reduce consumer confusion and provide greater transparency on the packaging that can and can’t be recycled. The new labels will be applied over the next three years. It is hoped that, together with the accompanying rules, the labels will drive a faster switch to more sustainable packaging ahead of any reform of extended producer responsibility in 2023.

Under the new rules, most packaging will be labelled as:

Recycle: 75% or more of UK local authorities collect that type of packaging which is then effectively sorted, processed and sold as recyclate for use in new packaging or products.

Don’t Recycle: fewer than 50% of UK local authorities collect that type of packaging and/or it is not effectively sorted, processed or sold as recyclate for use in new packaging or products.

Three plastic polymer types will move from ‘Check Locally’ to ‘Recycle’ labels, whilst two polymers that are widely collected, but mainly landfilled or incinerated, will move from ‘Check Locally’ to ‘Don’t Recycle’.

Under the new rules, coated paper and card quality tolerances will be tightened to a maximum of 15 per cent plastic by weight for the ‘Recycle’ status, reducing further to 10 per cent in January 2023 to give industry time to respond. Coffee cups will also be given a specialist label to support in-store collections for recycling.

A handful of fully recyclable packaging types, where collections fall between 50 to 75 per cent of local authorities, will retain the intermediary ‘Check Home Collections’ status.

The new rules follow a review process by OPRL’s Steering Group; technical experts from academia, NGOs and industry, who gathered extensive data and evidence from consultations and consumer testing.

Stuart Lendrum, Chair of the Steering Group and OPRL Ltd Board director, said of this review:

“This has been the most inclusive, extensive and rigorous review to date of our recycling labelling rules. We’ve gathered together a broad and diverse array of expertise and evidence and subjected it to scrutiny and challenge by respected figures from inside the industry and beyond. I’m massively grateful to everyone who has contributed.”

“The results deliver our commitment to give consumers clarity on the true recyclability of packaging. As part of that commitment to transparency and accountability, we are making our evidence base publicly available today. As further new evidence becomes available, we will fine-tune these Rules so that we reflect the UK’s developing recycling technology and infrastructure, and further refining of industry technical standards.”

We are a member of On-Pack Recycling Label (OPRL), which helps us to offer recycling label support to our packaging compliance scheme members. Get in touch to find out how our Comply with Clarity packaging compliance scheme can support your business.

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