The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) issued a report into the development and promotion of high quality recycling. The ‘Quality Action Plan’ identifies the existing best practices and sets out measures to support the market in delivering recyclates of sufficient quality.
Media scaremongering has taken a negative attitude towards recycling, focusing on poor quality recycling examples and news that some of the recycling collected at Kerbside still ends up in landfill. Printwaste Managing Director, Don Robins, comments on the DEFRA report and gives his views on what this really means to the industry.
Don Robins states:
“Landfill in Gloucestershire has less than ten year’s capacity; we simply do not have a big enough area to accommodate all the waste that is currently being sent to landfill. The approach we must adopt is two-fold; we have to start looking at alternative ways to dispose of our non-recyclable waste and we have to be more conscious of the future by ensuring that we are separating and recycling our waste properly.
In general, industry is gearing itself up to create a sustainable future by considering the impact of creating a product from start to finish; particularly within the car industry, products are being manufactured with the view to reprocess them at the end of their life. However, it also has to be the responsibility of the disposers, not just individuals but waste collectors also, to ensure that where possible their waste material is sorted appropriately so that it can be reprocessed into new material. It costs on average 40% less to make a new product out of reprocessed materials than it does to make one out of virgin materials. Massive savings can be made, not just the monetary value on materials but also the amount of water and energy used throughout the manufacturing process is substantially reduced. This highlights a key issue that we must consider for the future in order to move towards an effective sustainable society.
The issue we have now is to overcome the media’s and society’s negative attitude towards recycling; this can be done by providing well researched information and digestible solutions, as opposed to misinterpreted facts and media scaremongering. The recent DEFRA report discusses three separate practical systems of recycling; co-mingled, kerbside sort and source segregated systems. What the media failed to identify was that although the statistics surrounding co-mingled recycling systems are below satisfactory, the statistics involving kerbside recycling are positively increasing. The vision therefore is to not only ‘increase the quantity of material recycled, but also promote the quality of recycling’.
More importantly, co-mingled waste does not just apply to all waste which is collected from homes and businesses for recycling; the alternative of kerbside sort and source segregated systems is often the collection method of choice. When comparing collection methods, additional factors should be taken into consideration; such as the efficiency of a particular location’s Material Recovery Facility (MRF) or Transfer Station. Within a MRF that has mechanical operations, there is always a team of operatives sorting by hand. Dependant on the volume of recyclates, the efficiency of the waste management system will rely on the facilities and the cleverness of the technology they use. As waste technology improves, more of the material currently sent to landfill will be recycled and the amount of material rejected by a MRF will be reduced. As these opportunities arise Cheltenham Borough Council‘s waste collectors will be championing the instruction of the new technology in order to better the recycling rate.
At Printwaste Recycling & Shredding we handle 100% of the Council generated recyclates in Cheltenham and it is our responsibility to make sure the materials, which are carefully sorted by the public, are not rejected. Almost 100% of the separated material collected at kerbside by the Cheltenham council is sent to re-processors; and there is very little rejected from the reprocessing system.
What the DEFRA report has highlighted for us all is that we should be considering our use of materials and consider those that can be reused; we may not be concerned now but should we not put a high quality recycling plan in place that is helping rather than hindering the future? It is important to note that DEFRA and the Government Waste Framework Directive both identify that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach and there should be flexibility about the choice of collection system employed in any locality.”