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Household ignorance over contamination revealed

A survey commissioned by the Confederation of Paper Industries (CPI) indicates that most residents are unaware that paper and cardboard soiled with grease cannot be recycled.

A nationwide poll conducted by YouGov in November found that 55% of 2,163 respondents either thought it was the right thing to do or were under the impression that a waste processing plant could remove the packaging if it was not recyclable.

The poll showed a misconception among some residents that a sorting mechanism could separate contaminated paper or cardboard, and were unaware that ‘spoiled’ items such as takeaway containers can get through to reprocessing plants.

The findings come a day after Defra announced that UK household recycling had fallen for the first time since records began.

Other questions in the survey revealed that, when asked to choose who was most responsible for ensuring that recyclable packaging from the home is of good enough quality to be recycled, 45% of respondents said the onus was on the household, while 38% believed that it was down to the packaging manufacturers or the reprocessors of recyclable material, with a further 8% believing it should be down to local authorities.

The CPI said many households acknowledged their responsibility for achieving good recyclate quality and suggested a willingness to help reverse an increase in rejection rates with the right guidance.

Director of packaging affairs Andy Barnetson says: “From a domestic perspective, the message about the benefits of recycling cardboard is clearly getting through and the public does realise its role in the process, which is vital.

”However, we need to offer guidance about the impact of poor-quality recycled packaging, and consistent and precise information for households does provide greater clarity and simplicity.”

WRAP’s ’Recycle Now’ campaign is currently focusing on paper and cardboard to coincide with the festive season.

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