The introduction of universal labelling has been hampered by councils having different rules as to what they will accept for recycling. As a result, consumers are faced with a range of symbols and messages, which can sometimes be confusing.
The retailers' scheme will divide packaging materials into three categories: 'widely recycled', for items accepted by 65% or more of local authorities; 'check locally', for items that are accepted between 20% and 65%; and 'not currently recycled', for material recycled by fewer than one in five local authorities.
The scheme's label is based on the present Recycle Now logo but also incorporates a traffic light scheme to indicate which category the item falls into. Additionally, the label will be broken down to indicate all the packaging's components, if it is made of more than one material - for example, foil, cardboard and plastic film. The aim of the scheme is to help the government achieve its waste-reduction targets.
'Local inconsistencies cannot be allowed to thwart a standardised label that will not only help millions of customers but mean more of what can be recycled is collected,' said Kevin Hawkins, director of the British Retail Consortium.
The other retailers involved in the scheme are B&Q, Alliance Boots, Sainsbury's, the Co-operative Group and Waitrose. It is being led by the BRC and the Waste and Resources Action Programme.