| Legislation

Understanding DEFRA’s Simpler Recycling Legislation for England

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has recently released their guidance to the Simpler Recycling Legislation. This legislation is set to launch on 31st March 2025 impacting initially businesses before also affecting households too.

Let’s delve into the key takeaways:

Introducing a consistent approach

DEFRA is proposing exemptions that would allow collections of all dry recyclables (paper, card, plastic, metal, and glass) together in one bin. This means no more sorting paper from plastic or wondering where that aluminium can go – everything goes in one convenient container!

Food waste will also get its own dedicated bin under the proposed changes. Whilst some councils already offer this service for households, the update encourages nationwide consistency for food waste collection across households and businesses.

The aim is to reduce the impact of homes and businesses in some areas of the country only being able to recycle certain materials, bringing a more consistent approach to recycling across the country. This exciting new plan also aims to reduce waste crime, currently costing the country around £1 billion a year! This will be actioned through new mandatory digital waste tracking, which you can find more about here.

What is DEFRA’s Simpler Recycling and what’s the impact on businesses?

From 31st March 2025, all businesses (except those classified as microbusinesses with less than 10 FTE employees) in England will be required to present the following materials for recycling:

  • Paper & Cardboard

    • All paper & cardboard except:
      • Paper and card that contains glitter or foil
      • Paper that is laminated
      • Stickers and sticky paper
      • Padded lined envelopes
      • Paperback and hardback books
      • Wallpaper
  • Plastic

    • Plastic bottles made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET, including amorphous, recycled PET), polypropylene (PP), and high-density polyethylene (HDPE)
    • Pots, tubs, and trays made of PET (including amorphous, recycled, and crystalline PET), PP (including expanded PP), and polyethylene (PE)
    • PE and PP plastic tubes larger than 50mm x 50mm
    • Cartons for food, drink, and other liquids, including aseptic and chilled cartons.
    • Plastic film packaging and plastic bags made of mono-polyethylene (mono-PE), mono-polypropylene (mono-PP), and mixed polyolefins PE and PP, including those metallised through vacuum or vapour deposition (to be included from 31st March 2027).
  • Glass

    • Glass packaging including bottles and jars.
  • Metal

    • Steel and aluminium tins & cans
    • Steel and aluminium aerosols
    • Aluminium foil
    • Aluminium food trays
    • Steel and aluminium jars and bottle lids
    • Aluminium tubes
  • Food waste

    • All food intended for human or household pet consumption, regardless of whether it has a nutritional value.
    • Biodegradable material resulting from the processing or preparation of food, including inedible food parts such as bones, eggshells, fruit and vegetable skins, tea bags and coffee grounds.

When will Simpler Recycling happen?

Whilst these plans aim to impact the future, DEFRA have outlined three key dates as part of the update to be vigilant of. These are:

31st March 2025

All materials capable of being recycled to be collected from all businesses, including schools and hospitals. As mentioned in the above, plastic film and green waste are exempt.

31st March 2026

Households will need to recycle all waste streams, except plastic films. Local authorities to start receiving ongoing resource funding for food collections, meaning weekly collections will take place and all core recycling collections continue.

31st March 2027

The time to tackle plastic films and remove it from regular plastic waste, introducing flexible collections from households and businesses.

Why is DEFRA’s simpler recycling being introduced?

Improve recycling rates

Ensuring all domestic waste collections include the seven core recycling streams should improve recycling rates towards the UK’s household waste recycling target of 65% by 2035.

Simplify waste management-

The introduction of this legislation will mean the same materials can be recycled at home or work anywhere in the UK, removing the confusion about what can and cannot be recycling in your area.

Crack down on waste crime-

Around 18 tonnes of waste in England could be illegally managed according to the Environment Agency which negatively impacts the environment. Reforming the licensing system for waste carriers, brokers and dealers with mandatory digital waste tracking aims to centralise reporting and reduce illegal waste activity.

How can your business prepare for DEFRA’s simpler recycling?

If your business requires additional support on DEFRA’s Simpler Recycling legislation, Reconomy is here to help. By providing waste management services that introduce a consistent and sustainable approach to recycling, we can help your business thrive. Please reach out today.