People in the North West call for clearer recycling rules

20 Sep 2019 11:16
Published by: Kian French

We are more committed than ever to saving our planet, with people trying to cut down on plastic usage and recycling everything in sight.

However, there is still a high level of confusion on what can, or can't, be recycled. And this has led to almost half (49%) of adults in the North West calling for clearer rules on recycling. That's according to new research by, which reveals more than half (55%) of people in the region don't recycle properly because they're confused by the rules in their area. The research comes as new Freedom of Information data shows 40% of wastage was recycled by councils in the region last year, on average.

But the research shows that people want to recycle and are giving it their best shot. In fact, more than a third (36%) of adults in the North West will improvise, despite not fully understanding the rules. More than one in seven (15%) will also try their best to follow the rules, even though they're confused.

However, initiatives have been implemented to encourage people to recycle in and out of the home. For example, councils might offer explainer-style postcards or newsletters to update people on the rules in the area. Or they might arrange a local talk to get the community involved.

But there are also measures in place to stop people from recycling incorrectly. According to Freedom of Information gathered from UK councils, 25% of councils in the region have employees who will snoop through bins to find anything that's contaminated or wrongly recycled. And in which case, 79% of councils will refuse to collect the waste.

By having these measures in place, councils should be able to recycle a high majority of waste. In fact,'s League Table reveals Cheshire West and Chester Council has a recycling rate of 59% - the highest in the region.

However, research shows that very few people don't recycle at all, which raises the question of why some councils aren't meeting recycling targets. And it seems much of the confusion comes down to certain items, such as black plastic, tin foil, and even receipts. The clear up this confusion, has taken the top 10 items people are most baffled about and simplified the rules. Polystyrene topped the list, which is in fact not recyclable. But according to the research, more than half (57%) of people across the UK will put it in with the recycling.

But people aren't necessarily blaming councils and putting the responsibility on them to save the planet. In fact, more than half (52%) of UK adults are calling for manufacturers to reduce the amount of plastic used in packaging. And recent news shows that some companies are pledging to reduce excess packaging in supermarkets in the next five years - a positive step towards reducing the amount of plastic we're using.

There are also some people who would like to see wrongdoers punished, with more than one in seven (15%) calling for fines issued to household, and more than one in 10 (11%) suggesting prosecution. Currently, a small number of councils will issue fines to people, often repeat offenders. In fact, research shows 7% of Brits have faced a fine of £92, on average, for incorrect recycling. It's surprising this isn't higher, given how many people aren't recycling correctly, even if they're doing so unknowingly.

But when it comes to recycling, there isn't a one rule for all. Some councils will have the one, but some have as many as five. And current recycling guidelines mean that many councils could have different bins to their neighbouring authorities. It's no wonder people don't quite know where to put their plastic bottles or their empty cartons. Or even if they can be recycled. But, perhaps with consistent rules across the UK, people would be more encouraged to recycle properly.

Tom Vaughan, Head of Home at, says: "We want to recycle, but there's so much confusion around how best to get rid of our rubbish that we aren't all doing it properly. And this is reflected in the fact that 40% of waste was recycled in the North West last year, on average.

"It's shocking how many of us are unknowingly putting non-recyclable items into recycling bins, like receipts or coffee cups. Or aren't recycling items that can be. To help, we've simplified the rules for some of the most confusing items. You might be shocked to see what can or can't be recycled.

"It doesn't help that councils seem to have different rules. We know that this is often down to resources and out of their control. But there needs to be some level of consistency across the board to keep people motivated to recycle.

"Councils are proactively putting measures in place to encourage recycling. And as our League Table shows, councils with measures in place are recycling more waste. But simplifying the way we recycle across the UK will be a huge step in keeping recycling rates high."


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