UK Packaging Waste Recycling Guide 2024

New data published by the UK Government shines a spotlight on the amount of packaging waste generated in the UK by businesses defined as "producers" and how much of it was recycled. The key headline of the report which was published in 2023, shows that 63.2% of all packaging waste was recycled in 2021, with only a marginal increase since 2020.

In this guide, we will offer insights into how UK businesses manage their packaging waste in a more sustainable way in 2024.

UK paper and cardboard packaging waste data 2021

Unsurprisingly, paper and cardboard contributed to the largest amount of total packaging waste. Corrugated cardboard boxes, fruit trays and cartons are all common types of cardboard packaging waste produced. Of the 5389 thousand tonnes created in 2021, 70.6% of it was recycled. Although one of the easiest types of packaging waste to recycle, many businesses we have worked with have told us about how their limited storage space for additional recycling bins has meant that they've had to reluctantly resort to putting their cardboard waste into general bins. Luckily, a cardboard baler is a easy solution to this enabling a business to bale and therefore store more cardboard waste prior to collection.

UK glass packaging waste data 2021

The second largest amount of waste generated in the UK detailed in the report was from glass. Bottles and jars are probably the most common types of waste generated by the UK food and drinks manufacturing sector. The good news within the report was that of all the materials detailed, glass had one of the highest recycling rates at 73.6%. The main reasons behind it being recycled more commonly than cardboard are likely to be because it is easier to keep clean (as contaminants on cardboard can hinder recycling) and a there being a wide variety of glass crusher hire and puchase options available to UK businesses. Pubs, restaurants and other hospitality businesses in UK hire glass crushers to reduce the volume of glass prior to collection making storage much easier.

UK plastic packaging waste data 2021

There are many different types of plastic packaging waste used within UK businesses and due to this variety, alot of confusion exists about what types can be recycled. With a recycling rate of only 44.2%, there is still a lot of work to be done by producers to minimise the amount of plastic used in their packaging. However, there are a few easy adjustments that UK businesses can implement to handle plastic packaging waste more sustainably for example by using a plastic baler. Many different businesses in UK hire plastic baler machines to compact their waste. The benefit being that it reduces the amount of bins and subsequent bin lorries needed to transport it. 

Source: UK statistics on waste - GOV.UK (

Why bins are not the best way to recycle packaging waste

Bins are the most common strategy that businesses use to dispose of their packaging waste in UK. UK commercial recycling bins are also known as Dry Mixed Recycling (DMR) bins. They accept any form of dry packaging, meaning paper and card and plastic can easily be mixed in multiple bins. However, by using mixed bins you are not segregating the waste packaging at the source (your business) and therefore your bin supplier has to do it for you at their own recycling facility making them comparatively a more expensive means of packaging waste disposal. DMR bins are becoming increasingly expensive due to being labour intensive work and landfill tax rates rise every April.

Other DMR Bin Problems…

  1. One 1100 litre DMR bin takes up a large volume of area. In comparison, a single baler takes up the same footprint. That one baler can do the job of several bins and it will do it better. Paper and card and different items can be recycled and crushed to save space. 
  2. Despite being voluminous, a wheelie bin or recycling banks bins will fill up in no time. Flat-packing is a necessary job for staff to try and fit as much cardboard in bins as possible. This is additional labour, time consuming and a distraction for staff.
  3. If you have general waste bins on site, these are even more expensive than DMR bins, as everything heads to landfill. Recyclables can easily overflow into the general waste stream when bins are full, which should never happen nowadays.

100% Packaging Waste Segregation at the Source with Balers

Cardboard and plastic packaging is simple to segregate at your business with an easy to use cardboard baler or plastic baler. Baling, ensures no materials get mixed together and everything is kept separate. This is by far the best modern and efficient recycling technique that businesses can use to dispose of their packaging waste. The key waste balers advantages for businesses are:

  1. Waste Balers will handle all cardboard boxes and any plastic packaging waste produced on site.
  2. Balers handle whole materials with ease, therefore no risk of injury from compacting boxes manually
  3. They come in a range of sizes and are suited to a huge array of businesses.
  4. Once baled, the dense bales can be stored and will be collected on a regular basis. For larger quantities of good quality baled materials, you make even get paid for them.
  5. It is easy to bale both materials separately - cardboard is usually baled more regularly than plastic due to its size. A simple bag stand can handle the plastic until there is enough to bale and keeps everything separate. This means that you only need to hire one waste baler for handling two types of waste.

Saving Money, Space and Time with Waste Balers

As well as 100% segregation and recycling, balers offer financial and practical savings. This allows businesses to fulfil recycling schemes with ease. Waste Balers allow businesses to reduce their wheelie bin numbers. With all paper and card and plastic processed through the waste baler, bins can be made redundant. With the average collection cost per recycling bin currently at £12, savings can be made if there is more than one bin on site - this is very common. Removing bins creates more space and stops any need to flat-pack cardboard. Waste Balers can be small enough to fit into tight spaces, meaning they can often be located close to the source of waste – this saves staff regularly walking to the bin area.

Waste Balers really do work as an effective waste management solution.

Industries Where Recycling Equipment Thrives

The great thing about recycling machines is their flexibility to be used almost anywhere. The equipment comes in all sizes and can be located inside and outside. Some of the most common industries to use recycling equipment include:

  • Automotive
  • Breweries
  • Distributors
  • Engineering
  • Hotels
  • Manufacturers
  • Pubs
  • Recyclers
  • Restaurants
  • Schools
  • Suppliers

There are some fantastic case studies that show examples of where recycling equipment has thrived in these industries. For any specific case studies, you can contact us here and we will get back to you.

Other Materials and Waste Reducing Equipment

Of course, our recycling guide covers are more types of packging waste other than just cardboard and plastic. Glass bottles and jars, general waste, cans and tins, fabrics, and EPS Polystyrene are also large waste streams and expensive to have collected in bins.

  • Glass crushers reduce bottle volume 5:1 and are ideal for pubs, bars, hotels and restaurants for bottles and jars. Bin quantities and costs get reduced as well as improved health and safety standards.
  • General waste is anything that cannot be recycled and currently has to head to landfill. Waste compactors will reduce volume 3:1, lowering collection costs and bin numbers.
  • Can and tin volumes will be reduced up to 10:1 by crushing them all inside a can compactor (these can also be known as can crushers). These recycling machines are popular with manufacturers, engineers and automotive workshops.
  • Fabrics such as carpet remnants and hessian sacks can easily be baled and there are recyclers out there who will collect these for textile recycling.
  • EPS machines are particularly popular with fish processors as all fish is delivered in sizeable EPS boxes. A high quality EPS compactor will reduce volume 40:1.

Boost Your Green Credentials

Recycling rubbish and reducing your waste (both at home and in your business) will ensure you boost your green credentials. Segregation on a business site also follows recycling guidelines which is what the UK's waste partners  are seeking. Alongside this, a tidy waste area with little to no bins gives off a positive impression to the passing public, customers, and health and safety inspectors. For example, a restaurant with overflowing bins is off-putting and could be a sign of negligence throughout the business.

Reducing Your Carbon Footprint

By reducing your bins you subsequently reduce the amount of time lorries spend on the road for rubbish collection day. We’ve worked out the average amount of CO2 emissions saved by businesses with QCR recycling balers if they reduce bin numbers or remove them altogether.

  1. 85% of businesses with QCR’s recycling equipment reduce wheelie bin numbers by 2-10 per week.
  2. The average reduction in bin collections is two per week.
  3. QCR worked out how much CO2 each customer saves per year. Based on a collection of 20 customers and total distance travelled in a 20mpg lorry utilising 3 gallons of fuel (to cover the distance to and from the waste depot), the amount of CO2 saved per week equals 12.8kg – which equates to 665kg annually.
  4. Should 20 customers lose all their bins thanks to our recycling equipment, removing the lorry from the road will save 122 litres of diesel per week. This equals 319kg of CO2 per week and 16.5 tonnes per year.3
  5. Savings will exceed this as the figures are based on an empty lorry, and efficiency becomes much worse with additional weight.

A free site survey will determine whether you can improve your carbon footprint as well as save money, space and time on waste.

Click the button below to book yours today.