OPRL launches simplified labelling system

The On-Pack Recycling Label (OPRL) organisation has today launched its new ‘simplified’ labelling system across the UK in a bid to enhance packaging waste management transparency.

The previous packaging sub-categories of ‘Widely Recycled’, ‘Check Local Recycling’ and ‘Not Yet Recycled’ are to be replaced by ‘Recycle’ or ‘Don’t Recycle’ and are expected to be pivotal over the next three years as part of reforms to Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR).

The key labelling changes are that three polymer types move from ‘Check Local Recycling’ to ‘Recycle’, two polymers that are widely collected but mainly landfilled or incinerated move from ‘Check Local Recycling’ to ‘Don’t Recycle’, and NIR detectability determines whether some black plastics move from ‘Check Local Recycling’ to ‘Recycle’ or ‘Don’t Recycle’.

An item’s recyclability is essentially calculated on the percentage of UK councils that collect it and, for the first time, whether it can be processed effectively as opposed to landfilled.

To be designated the ‘Recycle’ label the type of packaging must be collected by at least 75 per cent of UK local authorities, with that packaging then sorted, processed and sold as recyclate for new packaging or products. The ‘Don’t Recycle’ label is applied to packaging that is collected by fewer than 50 per cent of UK local authorities and/or is not effectively sorted, processed or sold as recyclate for new packaging or products.

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

Speaking to Plastics in Packaging, Jane Bevis, a founding director at OPRL, said that the organisation is aligning with the Plastics Pact guidance so NIR detectable coloured aPET/rPET, cPET and NIR detectable black PP for some applications will all move to ‘Recycle’ from ‘Check Local Recycling’.

PVC and PS, meanwhile, will be labelled ‘Recycle In Future’. Insofar as laminated paper is concerned, a maximum of 15 per cent plastics content will be accepted as ‘Recycle’, but this will reduced to 10 per cent by 2023.

On the subject of the launch, Bevis called the new labelling rules the culmination of seven months work.

“This really is the fruit of cross-industry collaboration and some serious tyre kicking,” she said. “Particularly proud that these Rules will align with and underpin the work of the Plastics Pact and help to lay out a roadmap for realising the ambitions set out in CPI’s recyclability guidance, published last year. The sector is awash with important initiatives and didn’t need another one from us. Instead we are building on this good work to help drive more recyclable packaging and significant progress towards the goals envisioned in the EPR reform consultations.

“Getting the new rules out is step one. Getting early adoption of them and the new labels on packs is step two!”

Paula Chin, materials specialist at World Wildlife Fund (WWF), commented: “The UK public is increasingly interested in how their products are packaged. What to recycle and how to do that is vital – and these clear, evidence-based labels are part of the solution. Shoppers will now know which packaging is most sustainable and what to do when they’ve finished using it. This is key in ensuring we use our natural resources as efficiently as possible rather than just throwing them away.”