Images of climate innovation

Category: Sustainable world

One bin to rule them all

What's this about?

The Energy Transitions Commission has estimated that the production of plastics accounts for 5% of global carbon emissions.  In the UK there are currently 39 different bin collection regimes, spread over 391 local authorities.  This causes confusion about what can and cannot be recycled and means only a limited amount of plastic is recycled.   One Bin to Rule Them All is a University of Manchester project aiming to simplify and improve household plastic recycling. 

A silhouette of a man holding an empty plastic bottle next to a recycling bin and general waste bin on a purple background

More detail about the research

Our research explores the circular economy of plastic waste. Working with consumers, supply chain partners, and policymakers, it will simplify the current plastic waste system in the UK and work towards the development of a national standard for plastic recycling.

Through three interdisciplinary and integrated work packages, focused respectively on materials, business models, and social science, we are investigating the current challenges of plastic recycling in the UK. Our aim is to improve compliance with plastic recycling by developing One Bin to hold all plastic-like items and improving recycling infrastructure to create more usable recycled plastics that can be fed back into a circular economy. We will demonstrate a viable system to eliminate plastic release in the environment by identifying and creating value in plastic packaging waste streams and simplifying recycling for consumers.

The research has the potential to transform the UK's current plastic recycling system. The UK currently has over 39 different bin collection regimes, spread over 391 local authorities. What is classed as recyclable in one local authority is not classed as recyclable in another. Confusion persists and this contributes to low recycling rates and high levels of contamination. Recent estimates indicate that only 54% of rigid plastic from households is recycled (WRAP, 2018).

We will trial how a One Bin system - one bin for all household plastic - can simplify current recycling systems and overcome barriers to household engagement with recycling practices Led by Prof Michael Shaver (Director of the Sustainable Materials Innovation Hub and Sustainability Champion for the Henry Royce Institute) alongside Dr. Maria Sharmina (Senior Lecturer in Energy and Sustainability, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research) and Dr. Helen Holmes (Lecturer in Sociology, The Sustainable Consumption Institute), the project draws upon the University of Manchester's diverse research community, bringing together expertise from materials science, manufacturing, engineering, and social sciences.

Entrant: Helen Holmes , University of Manchester

Copyright: Into Productions

Funding: EPSRC: Creative Circular Plastic Funding: 'RE3: Rethinking Resources and Recycling', grant ref: EP/S025200/1. UKRI Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund: Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging, 'One Bin to Rule Them All: Modern Waste Management Toward Zero Plastic Release’, grant ref: NE/V01045X/1.

Collaborators: Prof Mike Shaver, Sustainable Materials Innovation Hub at the Henry Royce Institute, School of Natural Sciences, University of Manchester and Dr Maria Sharmina, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change, School of Engineering, University of Manchester.