ARE you clear about how you should be recycling your plastics? Do you understand the recycling process? RECOUP is a national charity that wants to educate consumers about the best way to deal with plastic, and thereby increase recycling.

RECOUP was founded in 1990 and is the UK’s leading independent authority and trusted voice on plastics resource efficiency and recycling. Anne Stephenson, RECOUP’s Business & Project Development Lead, says:

“Our aim is to educate people on why, and how, we need plastic packaging to be recycled with the local authority kerbside collections. Research has shown that if people understand the reasons and the processes better, the more likely they are to recycle.

“We don’t actually recycle or put packaging on the market, our members do, and they are local authorities; waste management; manufacturers that produce plastic packaging; brands and retailers that put plastic packaging on the market; and recyclers  that reprocess and re-grind it – the entire value team.”

This network of more than 180 members that support their work also share its commitments, which includes a more sustainable use of plastics; increased plastics recycling; improved environmental performance, and meeting legislative requirements.

RECOUP’s UK Household Plastics Collection Survey 2022 showed that plastics recycling  for all consumer packaging, overall, was 42%; with plastic bottles at 63%, and pots, tubs and trays at 38%. Which means that consumers are returning only about half the amount of plastic packaging that they could do via current recycling systems.

The Northern Echo: Anne Stephenson, RECOUP’s Business & Project Development Lead.Anne Stephenson, RECOUP’s Business & Project Development Lead. (Image: Recoup)

Under its consumer-facing arm, Pledge to Recycle Plastics, RECOUP engages with the community and with schools, providing information on plastics, based on fact, on what actually happens as it goes through the system.

A dedicated website – – offers a better understanding of the process and scale of the recycling journey, with information, links for schools, short videos, and a quiz to test your recycling knowledge.

Here are some handy tips to ensure that we recycle as much as we can, in the best way.

• First of all, the plastic container should be clean before it goes in the collection bin. Discarded food creates a sludge which damages the machinery used to sort recycling

• Remove any absorbent layers, which should go in general waste

• Keep tops on bottles, as they are too small to be captured separately (this also applies to clean ice cream and margarine tubs)

• Residents of Durham should not include black plastic as it cannot be sorted

• Keep things separate e.g. don’t put drinks cans inside food tins – they are different metals and will be captured separately

• Remember the Clean, Dry and Loose rule.  

“People want to do the right thing, and getting children involved from an early age is crucial,” says Anne. “If we all do our bit, then, collectively, the quality and the amount of plastics recycling will increase.

“We can’t do everything, but we can all do something. This way we can give valuable materials the opportunity for a second life, thus reducing the energy required to produce new plastic goods, and helping carbon reduction strategies.”

If you’re not sure what you can and can’t recycle, have a look at Pledge2Recycle Plastics Facebook page, where you can ask questions of the plastic experts, or visit

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