Policy & Infrastructure

RECOUP’s Policy & Infrastructure team works across a broad range of areas relating to data analysis, policy and regulation connected to the plastics value chain and its governance.

The team produces a range of research-based reports for members, stakeholders and decision makers which are updated annually. Topics covered include collection and sorting of post-consumer plastics to export and reprocessing, as well as the impacts of policy and legislation.

RECOUP provide bespoke support for members on a daily basis. Areas of wider research have included the impact of Covid-19 and UK Household Waste Recycling Centres. The team have also contributed to industry-wide research such as the BPF Recycling Roadmap, Valpak’s Covid-19 Impact Reports, and associated packaging market data, as well as infrastructure and reprocessing research for Zero Waste Scotland.

UK Household Plastic Packaging Collection Survey

Each year, RECOUP releases its UK Household Plastics Packaging Collection Survey

RECOUP survey all UK Local Authorities, County Councils and Waste Partnerships, collating data and information about plastic collection quantities, and the challenges and opportunities that they face. The Survey is supported by the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (LARAC) and the National Association of Waste Disposal Officers (NAWDO).

This is a key report for industry and government, widely referenced and assists both UK policy and strategy decisions, as well as local government bodies to understand the current state of play of UK plastic recycling.


A key challenge facing the UK is its infrastructure and associated capacities to sort and recycle plastics without relying heavily on export markets.

In 2020 RECOUP produced its first UK Household Plastic Packaging Sorting and Reprocessing Infrastructure report.

This report is being updated in 2022 to detail the capacities within the UK to sort and reprocess not only household plastic packaging waste but also commercial and industrial material. The current status of chemical recycling will also be explored.

The need for the UK to have infrastructure to handle its own waste, in terms of both capacity and achieving the required quality, is becoming increasingly important. In recent years the UK has seen around 60% of its plastic packaging waste exported for recycling. However, with policy and legislative changes in the UK, EU, and individual countries (including the historically larger export markets of China and Turkey), it is now more important than ever that sufficient capacity is available for the UK to manage its own volumes of waste.

This report helps to identify which areas need investment and priority to support the UK meeting both its recycling and environmental targets.

Policy & Legislation

In the last two years in particular, a multitude of policy and legislative changes have been proposed and

consulted on through the UK Government and devolved administrations. Whilst each of these

addresses specific environmental and recycling aims, with different timescales and dynamics there is a growing sense of importance that they work together and settle to help direct the future capability of the UK to manage our waste and recycling systems.

As of early 2022, the discussion points for the UK primarily focus on:

  • HMRC’s UK Plastic Packaging Tax; requiring plastic packaging to contain 30% recycled content or be subject to a £200 per tonne tax.

  • Defra’s proposed reform of the UK’s Packaging Producer Responsibility System, otherwise known as Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR).

  • Defra’s consultation on Consistency In Household and Business Recycling in England.

  • Consultations on the use of Single-Use Plastic Packaging in England (Defra), Scotland (Scottish Government), Wales (Welsh Government), and Northern Ireland (DAERA).

  • Defra’s consultation on Deposit Return Schemes in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

  • Scottish Government’s consultation on a Deposit Return Scheme in Scotland.

  • Competition and Markets Authority guidance on Environmental Claims on Goods & Services.

The Policy & Infrastructure team at RECOUP has responded to each of these consultations, amongst others, and will continue to do so as they progress. Ongoing work is taking place with HMRC about various areas of the UK Plastic Packaging Tax, other policy makers, stakeholders, and of course RECOUP’s members.

Furthermore, policy and regulation are being consulted on by both the European Commission and the Basel Convention. These are particularly relevant as the UK is now classed as an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) country by the European Union.

  • Revisions to European Waste Shipment Regulations which impacts the quality and contamination thresholds for material that is imported and exported from and to European Union Member States and the European Economic Area (EEA).

  • Changes to European regulations around the use of recycled plastics in food-contact materials which impacts what products manufactured in the UK can be sold in the EU.

  • Revisions to the Basel Convention on the export of plastic waste, particularly relating to Green List waste and exports to non-OECD countries.


Aside from the core elements of work, there are a number of projects and areas of interest currently being looked at by the Policy & Infrastructure team. These include:

  • Collection and recycling of plastic film in various environments, including post-consumer flexible packaging and retailer front-of-store collections ahead of consistent collection legislation coming into force which may mandate the collection of plastic film via kerbside schemes.

  • Marine and ocean bound plastics, in terms of both the data and prevalence of plastics in waterways around the UK and further afield, as well as the claims made in relation to recycled plastics from marine environments.

  • Research into compostable and biodegradable packaging and its place in the UK.

  • Collection and recycling of plastics from Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs).

  • Consumption, disposal, and recycling of packaging away from home.• Use of agricultural plastics and recycling. 

To view any of our additional published reports, please visit the RECOUP Reports page. Members have access to additional reports in the Members Area - any members currently without access can submit a member login request via email to enquiry@recoup.org to get this set up.

Tel: 01733 390021
Email: enquiry@recoup.org

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