MANUFACTURERS must be made to pay a “fairer share” of the costs of recycling plastic packaging, the UK Government has been urged.

Many frequently-bought products come with difficult-to-recycle plastics ranging from black food trays which cannot be easily sorted at recycling facilities to packaging for pasta and rice, vegetable wrapping and polystyrene pizza bases.

There is also variation between councils to what they pick up from households for recycling, with more than a quarter of local authorities failing to provide kerbside collections of plastic containers such as yoghurt pots and ice cream tubs.

Surveying for waste reduction organisation Wrap shows confusion among households about recycling, with 15 per cent throwing plastic cleaner bottles in the bin when their council can recycle them, and 10 per cent doing so with plastic pots.

More national consistency could boost household recycling, which has stalled in recent years, curb consumer confusion and cut waste, it has been suggested.

But campaigners said the most responsibility lay with companies that manufacture products in plastic packaging, and more costs should shifted onto them.

The call comes amid warnings of a build-up of plastic waste at UK recycling facilities in the wake of a ban by China on importing plastics for recycling.

Will McCallum, from Greenpeace UK, said rising plastic production, low oil prices making recycling less competitive, China’s ban and “frankly inadequate” recycling infrastructure being asked to operate with less public money combined to create a “perfect storm”.

“Our recycling systems needed reforming, to move some of the cost off the taxpayer and onto manufacturers who are currently failing to shoulder their share of the burden.

“Once they’re paying a fairer share of the costs of system failure, they’ll be a lot more enthusiastic about helping the system succeed,” he said.

Julian Kirby from Friends of the Earth said: “The most responsibility for cutting plastic pollution must lie with the companies that make and market the stuff in the first place.

“It’s up to governments to use regulations, incentives and their role in providing collection infrastructure and markets to encourage companies to play their part in ending the scourge of plastics pollution.”

Some of the major retailers said they were taking steps tackle plastic packaging in their own brands.

Lidl said it had the highest proportion of loose fruit and vegetables of British supermarkets, and had removed single-use carrier bags from stores, while Sainsbury’s said its measures included making its cleaner bottles fully recyclable and being first to offer in-store recycling of some cereal and bread bags as well as carrier bags.

The Co-operative has replaced polystyrene pizza boards with cardboard and black plastic trays with cardboard for its “irresistible” tomatoes as part of its efforts, and Waitrose said it had trialled non-plastic punnets made of tomato leaf and recycled cardboard.

David Palmer-Jones, chief executive of Suez recycling and recovery UK, said plastic films and some types of tubs and trays were technically recyclable but difficult to collect and create new products from.

The industry was focusing on measures such as standardising packaging design and making sure recycling plants could recognise and sort materials, he said.