Nearly three in 10 people believe they recycle less than they could, with many of those who feel they could do more saying they are confused about what could be recycled.
This data is contained in a survey of 12,000 members of the public commissioned by Serco from the research firm Future Thinking.
While 71% of people said that they recycled as much as they could, the biggest explanation given by those who felt they could do more was infrequency of collection, cited by 8% of respondents.
Seven percent said the recycling information on products was too confusing and 5% said they did not know what to recycle due to a lack of information or confusing information.
Another 5% had no recycling bins or bags and another 5% said they wanted a financial reward to recycle.
Residents of Wales, which became the first part of the UK to introduce statutory recycling targets for councils in 2010, were most likely (75%) to say they currently recycled all they could. Those living in London were among the least likely.
Serco’s manages waste collection for over 1 million households across 16 English councils. It estimates that confusion over what can be recycled costs councils some £45m annually.
The firm is calling for greater cooperation between the waste industry, local authorities, retailers and producers of consumer goods to provide simple and coherent information to consumers.
Robin Davies, Serco Environmental Services’ business development director, said: “Councils and service providers put a lot of effort into communicating guidelines to local residents but their job would be made a lot easier if we all worked together to simplify and standardise recycling information.
“Cleaner and consistent information would help people to understand what items to put in the right bins and help people recycle more, leaving local authorities to set their waste collection policies to suit local needs.”