Design for the Future: New Guidelines Support Paper-based Packaging

International News

New recycling guidelines that will help retailers and brands specify and design packaging that can be reprocessed effectively in paper mills have been launched by the Confederation of Paper Industries (CPI), in conjunction with WRAP.

These guidelines have been developed after broad consultation with the packaging supply chain and are intended to give clarity for retailers and specifiers about what the UK Paper Industry considers readily recyclable. They should lead to the optimisation of both the quality and quantity of materials being recycled at paper mills and crucially help create impetus for future technological development in paper packaging materials.

The guidelines will also be considered by the On Pack Labelling Scheme (OPRL) when they amend their labels later this year. Their members typically have a two year transition period, allowing sufficient time for technical developments to be implemented in order to be classed as Widely Recycled under the scheme.

Paper recycling in the UK is a success story, with around 80% of paper and board packaging recovered for recycling, notes Simon Weston, Director of Raw Materials at CPI, who adds: “Paper is widely acknowledged to be a sustainable, renewable and readily recyclable material; however, as society develops new uses are found which may require the addition of other materials, perhaps to extend product life, and this can sometimes make recycling a challenge.”

Simon Weston continued, “Our new Recyclability Guidelines will make it easier for designers and specifiers to identify materials that provide properties such as water resistance and can be processed by UK paper mills while minimising waste. We hope they will provide confidence and direction to the supply chain and benefit the stock of fibre-based packaging being recovered for recycling.”

Helen Bird, Strategic Engagement Manager at WRAP, said: “Improving the quality of paper and card that goes into our paper mills is good news for the environment and for the industry. These guidelines have been developed as a result of industry coming together to identify and address the challenges. Most brands and retailers want to do the right thing and this guidance will assist them to do that. We always have to remember that recycling is about manufacture, ensuring that fibre-based packaging that can be easily recycled is really important, particularly for a material that householders are so accustomed to recycling.”

An overview

The full CPI reference document is available here and summary guidance is available at The guidance covers plastics, coatings, varnishes, adhesives, alternative barriers, gift wrap, biodegradable paper packaging, other fibrous materials, fillers and binders, promotional magazines and graphical papers and contaminants, including food.

Key messages of the guidelines:

  • Designers should minimise plastic content
  • A tear-off facility should be provided for plastic facings where possible, with consumers encouraged to use them
  • Two sided laminates such as beverage cartons and hard to recycle coffee cups can be recycled and should be collected and reprocessed separately
  • Restrict metallised films and laminates
  • Choose adhesives that are soluble in water and optimise the quantities of glues and adhesives used in manufacturing
  • Waxed or waxed coated papers and siliconised papers should be minimised.

And on food contamination:

  • Surface staining of packaging is acceptable, but food waste sitting in the pack or food attached to the surface is regarded as unacceptable
  • Encourage consumers to rinse before recycling
  • Provide tear-off solutions or peelable surfaces to allow the consumer to dispose of a contaminated surface in general waste and put the clean paper substrate in the recycling bin.

  1. The overriding motivation of these Paper and Board Packaging Recyclability Guidelines is to optimise the quality and quantity of Paper for Recycling (PfR) through technological development and better design, improve the recyclability of challenging material and reduce the amount of unwanted material passing into the supply chain.
  2. The Confederation of Paper Industries (CPI) will maintain a standing sub-committee to undertake periodic review of these guidelines on a minimum of a quarterly basis for the first year and then on an annual basis.
  3. CPI is the leading trade association representing the UK’s Paper-based Industries, comprising paper and board manufacturers and converters, corrugated packaging producers, makers of soft tissue papers, and collectors of paper for recycling.
  4. CPI represents an industry with an aggregate annual turnover of £11.5 billion, with 56,000 direct and a further 86,000 indirect employees
  5. For facts on the UK’s Paper-based Industries please visit:
  6. First established in 2000, WRAP is a not for profit organisation which works with governments, businesses and citizens to create a world in which we source and use resources sustainably. Our impact spans the entire life-cycle of the food we eat, the clothes we wear and the products we buy, from production to consumption and beyond.

Source: Confederation of Paper Industries - CPI (UK)