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Top 5 packaging materials recycled by consumers

Top 5 packaging materials recycled by consumers

Despite great efforts of UK citizens in avoiding single-use 5p plastics (67%), and a high percentage of them having a strong understanding of sustainability and carbon footprint (88%), many are still unsure of what and how to recycle packaging. In particular, Wrap reported that common household items such as foil, aerosols, clear plastic trays, plastic cleaners, plastic toiletries, tetra-pak, plastic pots, plastic tubs, cans, paper, and plastic drinks bottles end up in the general bin regardless of this being recycled.

So what are the UK’s latest packaging recycling habits? In this blog, we will look to Wrap’s Annual Recycling Tracking Survey 2020 to decode UK’s most recycled household items as well as the reasons behind it.


1. Cardboard Boxes and Paper (29%)

Cardboard packaging and paper in the form of flyers, catalogs, newspapers are the most recycled in the UK. While fewer items can be taken through kerbside collections, bulk waste is accepted in specially placed recycling points in supermarkets or your local recycling centre.

It is also important to mention that padded enveloped or contaminated paper products are not recycled as they are made of up complex composite material that is hard to separate.

2. Glass (28%)

Glass is also popularly recycled in the UK. For this material, it is important to remove any corks from jars and bottles as well as clean them before adding to the recycling pile. Broken glass should not be recycled as it can be dangerous for workers when sorting through the recycling pile.

3. Plastic Drink Bottles (26%)

The most common plastic, Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) is recycled the most. However, many of them still end up in the general waste pile or have contamination therefore it does not get recycled properly. Wrap’s survey stated that contaminated plastic is very added (32%) in kerbside collections and are therefore not accepted.

4. Tetrapak cartons (15%)

Despite Tektrapak’s announcement that 90% of local authorities now accept cartons for recycling, the recycling rates of tetrapak is still significantly low. A reason for this may be that consumers are aware of its complex formation. It is made with layers of polyethylene, paper and aluminum fused together therefore specific recycling equipment is needed and may put off consumers to add this to the recycling pile. To learn more about how tetrapaks are recycled, visit

5. Small electrical items (9%)

Small electricals such as kettles, toasters, and phones are the least recycled items. Research also revealed that UK households and businesses produce 1.45 million tonnes of electrical waste each year. This is detrimental to our planet as raw mining metals leads to more pollution when it could have been recycled from these electricals.


So, what are the main barriers to recycling packaging materials?

According to the survey, there has been an increase in anti-climate change attitudes which is translated to people’s recycling habits. Despite this 38% said they are unsure of what can or cannot be recycled, and they end up not recycling them at all. 21% also mentioned running out of space in the recycling bins and 20% addresses that their council does not collect enough recycling. Another important barrier is that when the packaging says to ‘check locally if it can be recycled’, consumers would not take an extra step and look this up.

Helpful sites we recommend as to what, how, and where to recycle are:, and

Which one of these materials do you recycle the most? Like Share Comment below

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