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Recycling consistency plan presents 'significant step forward' says industry

The resources industry has welcomed the publication of a plan to introduce more consistent recycling across England in an attempt to increase participation and decrease contamination of kerbside recycling services.

The Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) launched its ‘Framework for Greater Consistency in Household Recycling for England’ this morning (13 September) at the first day of this year’s RWM Conference.

The framework sets out eight core materials that, should it be adopted, would be collected by every local authority in the country in one of three established collection systems.

Members of the industry have already had their say, welcoming the potential for households across the country being able to recycle a consistent set of materials.

In a joint statement, ACE-UK, Alupro, British Glass, Confederation of Paper Industries, RECOUP and the Resource Association, organisations representing many of the major materials recycling sectors impacted by the proposals, said: “In what is a complex set of issues within which there are many challenges, WRAP have set out a clear vision which, if implemented, would lead to greater clarity about the labelling of packaging to indicate recyclability as well as improved commonality of approach to the collection of packaging materials for recycling.

“The economic and environmental case for greater consistency is compelling. Our industries are committed to playing a full part in realising this vision and will support the actions that follow on from the report. The challenge for government, local government and the recyclate collection and sorting industries will be in responding to our continued concerns about the costs of dealing with contaminated recyclate and working with us in partnership to realise the full potential of the UK’s recycling and reprocessing industries.

“This report is an important next step on this journey and represents an opportunity with long-term and long-lasting benefits. It will take time, but it is a significant step forward.”

The Environmental Services Association (ESA) has also welcomed the framework, with Executive Director, Jacob Hayler, stating that “greater consistency in household collections clearly has the potential to boost recycling by making it easier for households and also to save councils money by facilitating more joint working.”

Councils welcome freedom to implement more consistent services

During the development of the harmonisation project, the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (LARAC) stressed that imposing a small number of collection systems on councils would not work due to local markets, demographics and other factors. Instead, in a comment piece for Resource, Chair Andrew Bird suggested that addressing the materials that are collected would be the best way to make inroads on recycling performance.

This has turned out to be the emphasis of the framework, and Bird has welcomed the result, saying that it gives local authorities the freedom to use systems suitable to their areas while giving residents around the country a more consistent idea of how to recycle.

He said: “Right from the start it became clear that the best way to achieve any sort of consistency across the UK was to focus on the materials that were collected and not the method used to collect them. In terms of the UK achieving higher levels of recycling it makes sense that food waste is one of the materials that forms part of what a high achieving system might look like.

“By focusing on the materials it has meant the work was truly cross industry and this sort of cross industry working is something LARAC has called for recently on several occasions if we are to take things forward in a productive manner.”

Addressing ‘untapped’ resource of food waste

One of the biggest changes that implementation of the framework would bring about is the provision of separate food waste collections across the country. WRAP estimates that by 2025 over eight million extra tonnes of food waste collected with the changes proposed, generating £280 million in renewable energy sales.

Charlotte Morton, Chief Executive at the Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association (ADBA), said: “Food waste in England is a hugely valuable resource and an opportunity which is still largely untapped. Separate collections help meet the aim of reducing waste arising, while making the most of unavoidable waste by recycling it through anaerobic digestion into much needed biogas and biofertiliser.

“ADBA is delighted to have participated in the steering group on the case for greater consistency in household recycling from its inception. The AD industry is particularly pleased that the value of food waste has been recognised by the inclusion of separate collections in all three options for councils going forward, and our members look forward to working with local authorities to turn this vision into reality.

“Defra, WRAP and the other organisations involved should all be congratulated for their part in bringing forward the framework. As the business case makes clear, separate food waste collections require investment but are vital to improving recycling rates in a cost-effective way.”

Boost to quality in the recycling industry

The Recycling Association, which is launching a ‘Quality First’ campaign at this week’s RWM, says that WRAP’s framework will make it much easier to help educate consumers about what can and can’t be recycled and therefore improve quality.

Chief Executive Simon Ellin said: “The idea that everyone could be recycling the same set of core materials no matter where they live in England by 2025 will be a significant boost to the recycling industry, if it is adopted.

“WRAP’s own recent tracker survey found that 66 per cent of people contaminate because they are unsure whether a material can be recycled or not, but hope it will be. It is no wonder that material quality suffers when people are confused about what can and can’t be recycled.

“As part of the advisory group that worked with WRAP on developing this framework, we believe it will improve quality because, by having a core set of materials that can be recycled in England, people will be able to make better, more informed decisions about which bin to put their materials into.

“But it should also mean that there will be more responsibility throughout the supply chain with local government, the recycling industry, retailers and brands all involved in developing this framework.

“If every part of the supply chain works together to communicate the best way to recycle to ensure quality, then quality is bound to improve. At The Recycling Association, we are putting quality first, and we want to see this framework adopted to ensure it happens.”

A summary of the ‘Framework for Greater Consistency in Household Recycling for England’ can be found in Resource's previous news story.

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