Checking The Label

Auditing the on-pack recycling label scheme

Ricardo provides the compliance auditing for the On-Pack Recycling Label (OPRL) scheme to ensure its members adhere to the packaging rules developed by OPRL Ltd.

The OPRL scheme was launched in 2009 in response to consumer demand for a more standardised system of recycling information on packaging. It aims to provide simple, consistent and evidence-led information to make it easy for consumers to recycle more packaging, more often. The OPRL scheme is understood to have been the first in the world to label packaging in line with what can be collected for recycling. The labelling system has evolved in response to consumer insight research and now focuses on a simple ‘Recycle’ or ‘Do Not Recycle’ message, adding component details for multi-component packs.

OPRL’s binary approach to packaging labelling:
Recycle / don't recycle label  


OPRL has over 750 members, who include over 95% of grocery retailers for their own-label packaging and 93 of the top 100 grocery brands (by market share), with a rapidly growing presence in personal care, health and beauty, do it yourself (DIY), gardening, homewares and other non-food categories.

“Ricardo’s experienced auditing team provides excellent support and clear guidance to OPRL’s members regarding the correct application of the labelling rules. The auditing that Ricardo does for us means consumers can trust the information they see on their packaged items. It’s also very important to us to protect the integrity of our labelling scheme, ensuring that deliberate over-claiming and inadvertent misinformation is avoided. This rigorous audit process is part of what makes OPRL recycling labels unique in the UK.”
Margaret Bates, Executive Director, OPRL Ltd.


During the 10 years of conducting compliance audits for OPRL, Ricardo has checked over 17,000 pieces of packaging to ensure members are adhering to the packaging rules. Our knowledge of packaging materials and their end-of-life processing requirements provides us with unique credentials to support OPRL, which aligns with the processes outlined in ISO14021.


The auditing process

The auditing process involves assessing the packaging design and materials used against the recycling labels printed on the packaging. This process gives OPRL confidence that the instructions to consumers are accurate and protects the ongoing integrity of the labelling system. When selected for audit by OPRL, a scheme member is required to provide a sample of its packaging artwork. The number of samples required is based on the total number of packaging component formats or ‘unique component sets’, for example – ‘CARD – BAG – TAG’ or ‘CARD’, or ‘BOX – LABEL’. The member is also required to complete a proforma that outlines the packaging components, materials, recycling label used, additional information (for example, near-infrared (NIR) detectability and coatings) and the types of inks or laminations used.

Ricardo’s auditing team then undertakes an assessment of the information provided by the OPRL member and completes a written report to indicate the member’s compliance with the most up to date OPRL scheme rules. 

Labels deemed by Ricardo to be major non-compliances (for example, an incorrect recycling message has been applied) are highlighted in the report and must be addressed by the OPRL member as a matter of priority.

Before being issued to the member, compliance reports go through a rigorous quality assurance review process. This is undertaken by our in-house audit team management and a technical specialist, which means that correct guidance is provided.

Benchmarking information is included in the audit report so that members can track their progress over the years of their membership of the OPRL scheme.

Our experience

Ricardo’s OPRL audit team has extensive knowledge of the three different editions of labelling rules (2014, 2017 (both of which are now defunct) and 2019). In addition, they undergo quarterly training sessions which are led by OPRL, so they always have the most up-to-date information on the labelling system. This also provides an opportunity for any unusual or specialist packaging to be reviewed and to gain an understanding of how they should be labelled according to the OPRL rules. The training is a valuable part of the strong working relationship Ricardo has with the OPRL team.

The ongoing support Ricardo provides to OPRL Ltd, and its members is not only key to ensuring the integrity of the labelling system, but also means we are at the forefront of a rapidly changing packaging legislation landscape. With the introduction of mandatory labelling that Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) has brought to the UK, it is essential for businesses to understand how their packaging can comply with this new legislation. This includes mandatory labelling requirements whereby companies will be required to label their packaging components in order to comply with EPR legislation. 

Our team has a unique technical insight into packaging labelling schemes and is ideally placed to help organisations comply with current and future requirements.


Find out more about our sustainable packaging capabilities



Key Services

Sustainable packaging

Start and end dates

12/2013 - 12/2023



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