There has been a significant growth in research and applications of product recovery and recycling over the last two decades, in particular with the view of recent product take-back legislation which has extended the responsibility of manufacturers to include the recovery and safe disposal of their products. However, at present, the global scale of product recovery applications is significantly disproportional to the total manufacturing output. Hence, to achieve the idealistic goal of ‘zero landfill’, there is a need to significantly improve and extend both the scale of product recovery activities and the range of manufacturing applications in which such activities have yet to be implemented. This paper examines a range of barriers, drivers and challenges in research and development for the next generation of product recovery initiatives. A range of existing applications and case studies undertaken for the UK market has been used to analyse issues related to: the need for improvement and expansion of current legislation on producer responsibility; product take-back and reverse logistic models for collection of used products; knowledge-based approaches for end-of-life considerations during the design phase; improved technologies and increased automation in pre- and post-fragmentation recycling processes and most importantly, the requirement for sustainable business models for establishing value recovery chains which can be based on the provision of services rather than products. The paper concludes by summarising the results of this analysis to bridge the gap between existing and future sustainable solutions for product recovery.