Recycling Tracker Report

The Recycling Tracker is an annual survey of UK households designed to gather evidence on consumers’ current attitudes, knowledge and behaviour in relation to recycling (both dry recyclables/packaging and food).


Key Findings for 2016:

  • Almost half (49%) of UK households dispose of one or more items in the residual bin that are collected for recycling in their area.
  • Just over two-thirds (68%) of UK households add one or more items to their recycling collection that are not accepted locally.
  • The majority of households (88%) have at least some room for improvement as only one in eight households (12%) do not put any items in the residual bin that could be recycled, nor do they put any items in the recycling that are not accepted.
  • The number of items collected for recycling also has an impact on behaviour. The more items collected, the higher the proportion of households who have no room for improvement. By contrast, the fewer the number of items collected, the higher the likelihood that non-targeted materials will be placed in the recycling.
  • Two thirds of households (66%) express uncertainty about to correctly dispose of one or more items.
  • Misplaced confidence: Just over half of UK households (56%) are mistaken about at least one item they think they are disposing of correctly.
  • There are a number of other barriers to recycling, including a lack of recycling bin capacity, food residue on items and a lack of information about outcomes (i.e. what happens to recycling and what the local benefits are).
  • A lack of motivation is also a barrier for some, including households feeling that they do enough already.
  • The proportion of households reporting to use a separate food waste collection varies considerably across the UK nations
  • It also varies across age groups - from 24% of those aged 18-24 to 43% of those aged 65+.
  • Among food waste recyclers, a challenge is extending recycling across more items - almost half (49%) say they put some items of food in the residual bin.
  • Among non-users, the primary barriers are a perception of the process being messy or smelly, or that it would attract flies/vermin/foxes. Food waste recyclers find participating in the service much less unpleasant than non-users assume it to be.
  • While there remain gaps in householders’ understanding about the reasons why food waste recycling is important and what happens to it post-collection, small improvements are recorded relative to 2015.


Recycling behaviours have previously been tracked by WRAP via the 3Rs (recycling, reuse and repair) tracker. This report draws comparisons with previous surveys where possible. 3Rs reports are available for 2014 and 2015