Clearer labelling to show if packaging can be recycled is needed to help councils boost recycling rates, town hall chiefs have urged.
There also needs to be increased charges for hard-to-recycle products and measures to force producers to pay the full cost of disposing of their waste, the Local Government Association (LGA) said.
Labelling for all products needs to be improved, as it is often unclear and conflicting, with more than 20 different symbols that can appear on packaging – leaving consumers confused about what can and cannot be recycled.
This can mean recyclable material ends up in landfill or incineration or that unrecyclable packaging ends up contaminating recycling streams.
While the LGA said councils had used successful initiatives to increase recycling rates in their areas, more action is needed to help them boost recycling rates and tackle the waste crisis.
The current national rate has been static at around 45% of household waste in England over the past few years – against a recycling target of at least 50% by 2020.
Research by one council, Devon County Council, found that two fifths of household waste going in the “black bin” rubbish could be recycled with the current collection services offered in the area.
Along with better labelling to make recycling less confusing for householders, there also need to be measures to charge manufacturers more to cover the costs of dealing with packaging that is hard to recycle, the LGA said.
This will encourage manufacturers to switch to recyclable alternatives and generate income for councils to invest in waste collection and recycling, as well as initiatives such as recycling campaigns and curbing fly-tipping.
Manufacturers also need to pay the full cost of recycling their packaging to encourage them to use packaging that is fully and easily dealt with.
And the next government needs to ensure councils are adequately funded to expand their services, the association said.
Last year, ministers unveiled a new waste strategy which included measures to make packaging more clearly labelled to show it is recyclable, a consistent set of materials that councils across England are expected to pick up and costs shifted onto manufacturers to pay for their products to be dealt with.
Councils have previously called for changes to waste services to be “fully funded”, with upfront cash needed to help local authorities provide standardised collections.
David Renard, Local Government Association environment spokesman, said: “Councils want to increase recycling rates.
“Clearer labelling and increased charges for hard to recycle products would help councils, manufacturers and the public be part of a vital recycling revolution.”
And he said: “If we are serious about improving recycling rates, then the next government needs to commit to reforms that ensure producers pay the full cost of recycling packaging.
“More importantly, manufacturers need to reduce waste at the point of source to stop unnecessary and unrecyclable material becoming an issue in the first place.”