New Look for On-Pack Recycling Labels

Nearly eight years after launch, OPRL is trimming its on-pack labels to make them simpler for consumers to understand and easier for retailers and manufacturers to use.

With recent consumer surveys showing 7 in 10 recognise OPRL labels and 2 in 3 refer to them, the not-for-profit is responding to consumer calls for simpler, clearer messaging. Following a three-month review of the labelling system, components will only be listed on complex packaging, and materials will no longer appear on the labels.  This simplification also enables labels to be kept smaller, recognising pressures on packaging space resulting from FIR and other statutory requirements.

The iconic Recycle Now Swoosh remains at the heart of the design and forms the eye-catching focus of the labels.  The messaging has also been shortened from 'Check Local Recycling' to 'Check Locally', and 'Not Currently Recycled' to 'Not Yet Recycled', conveying greater immediacy and enabling bold text to be used without increasing label size.

A further modification involves the option to include calls to action identified by consumers as helpful advice when recycling.  WRAP research identified advice such as 'Cap On', 'Rinse' and 'Remove Sleeve' as valued by both consumers and recyclers, so where there is space on packaging OPRL's 500+ member brands and retailers are being encouraged to include these prompts.  The Australian on-pack labelling scheme already includes such advice.

Stuart Lendrum, OPRL Board director and Chair of the Review Panel, said: "After nearly eight years things have moved on and we’ve seen the further evolution of recycling in the UK. We needed to revisit the labelling with our goal to maximise effective recycling, the changing recycling landscape and our members in mind - that's why we ensured stakeholders played a key role in this review.  OPRL has come a long way since 2009, with over 500 brands on board now and more than 7 in 10 consumers recognising the label. But recycling in England, at least, is stalling and we want to help kick-start an up-turn. It’s one thing for packaging to be recyclable, it’s another to increase the quantity and quality of what's being recycled. So we've looked at WRAP and other research on barriers, listened to consumer and member feedback, and re-designed our labels to be simpler, more impactful, easier to understand and to use."

Karen Cannard, Panel member and waste reduction champion at The Rubbish Diet, commented "People are looking for clear, consistent recycling advice that makes it easy for them to do the right thing.  OPRL's willingness to embrace changes that will help people recognise that advice - and inspire action on it - is to be applauded.  With such high recognition rates already, the new simplified labels add impetus to the call to act on them!"

Helen Bird, WRAP adviser on the Panel said "Our research shows there is considerable confusion about what can and particularly what cannot be recycled, and how it should be presented for recycling e.g. lids on, rinsed. Embracing consistent, simple calls to action within the on-pack labels will help to overcome confusion and improve material quality – ensuring that what is put into recycling is actually recycled”.

Iain Ferguson, Environment Manager at the Co-op and Panel member added "We know that recycling is very important to Co-op members and customers. Being able to communicate the 'how-to' is essential to our ambition to make all of the packaging that we use easy to recycle.  This review of OPRL allows us give customers the information that they need in a simple and concise way.  It also supports local councils more effectively.  We'd like to see more brands adopting the label to broaden customer understanding to support UK recycling.