WRAP has urged local authorities to give clearer messages to residents on how to recycle in an attempt to boost flatlining recycling rates.
A number of industry experts warned household recycling in England could fall next year after Defra statistics revealed a 0.05 percentage point increase between 2012 and 2013, to 44.16%.
WRAP’s annual survey of householders’ attitudes to recycling has now found that 50% said they needed more guidance on what can be recycled.
A further report, updating a 2008 publication on barriers to recycling at home, has concluded that uncertainty over plastic and food waste “presents the most confusion”.
It said: “Plastic has become the material stream that has in recent years generated the greatest problems in people knowing exactly which items are recyclable, resulting in a degree of public confusion, and consequently less effective behaviour, and potential contamination of the feedstock supplied to reprocessors if this is not removed at the sorting stage.”
It also warned many residents did not understand what to do with food waste or why it was worth recycling.
Councils were called on to develop strategies for dealing with recycling from flats. The report said that services should be designed “specifically around the different types of flats in an area, and also taking close account of the social circumstances and lifestyles of the types of people living in them”.
WRAP director Marcus Gover said: “In the past ten years we’ve seen a significant rise in recycling rates; however we still have a long way to go.
“Using the findings of the ‘Barriers to recycling at home’ report, we know where to focus our attention when giving support and guidance to partners, ensuring that they are able to offer the right service which allows more residents to recycle highly effectively.”
Waste industry experts are looking at why some local authorities are recycling significantly more than others, as the UK looks likely to miss its 2020 target to recycle 50% of household waste. Variables that have been identified include the number of flats in an area, average household income, type of collections and efforts to educate residents.
WRAP said it would be introducing a number of initiatives in 2015 to improve recycling rates, including a “refresh” of its Recycle Now campaign.