Kerbside sort could bring £50m boost to NI recycling

Kerbside sort wheelie boxes hold the key to unlocking over £50 million of economic potential of high quality recyclables in Northern Ireland, according to a study carried out by the country’s Collaborative Circular Economy Network (CCEN).  

Kerbside sort could bring £50m boost to NI recycling
The report highlights Wheelie Boxes as as way to boost the collection of quality materials
The scoping study found that over £110 million worth of economic value is already generated every year from manufacturing new products from recycled paper, plastics and glass.

However, it also found that extra £50 million of unrealised economic potential could be unlocked through available additional capacity if more high-quality recyclate was available locally, an estimate that does not include the value that could be derived from generating biogas from food waste.

The CCEN is led by social enterprise Bryson Recycling, which collects from over 60 per cent of homes in Northern Ireland, and four local manufacturing companies: Cherry Plastics, glass recycler Encirc, paper reprocessor Huhtamaki (Lurgan) and food waste company AgriAD. The group is funded by Invest NI as part of its Collaborative Networks Programme.

Five councils: Belfast City Council, Mid & East Antrim Borough Council, Armagh City Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council and Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council also participated in the initial scoping study.

The study, carried out by Kappa Consulting, investigated the dynamic nature of the recycling industry in Northern Ireland and found that a major limiting factor for these manufacturing companies to their future growth is the availability of high quality recyclables.

Each company, it found, has to import recyclables from outside of Northern Ireland to supply their business, while tens of thousands of tonnes of recyclables are exported for recycling outside of Northern Ireland.

A strategic ‘Task and Finish’ group set up by Northern Irish government has already concluded that, if the current approach to waste management is not changed, then economic benefits from a circular economy and opportunities to develop new products from waste could both be lost, while the cost of waste management treatment will continue to increase.

Responding to the findings of the report, Fiacre O’Donnell, Head of Strategic Development at glass recycler Encirc, commented: “Our glass container products are made using up to 90 per cent post-consumer cullet. Maximising the levels of available cullet across Northern Ireland not only has a business impact for us, it allows us to produce cleaner products and grow the country’s circular economy.

“Now, more than ever, businesses, and the communities that support them, need to act more sustainably.”

Kerbside sort provides ‘critical’ quality boost

The CCEN’s report recommended that in order to source the local material at the quality ‘critical’ to reprocessor, current household waste collections systems would need to take on wheelie boxes or similar containers.

The wheelie box system comprises three stacked recycling boxes, of 55, 55 and 40 litres from bottom to top. All three boxes have slits so that material can be put in without unstacking, and all fit onto a wheeled trolley for increased ease of movement. A similar 'Trolibocs' system is also one of the preferred methods of collection for the Welsh Government.

Each of the reprocessors involved in the study reported that, from their experience, co-mingled collection systems result in unacceptable levels of contamination, whereas recyclate that has been collected separately through kerb-side sort, separate ‘bring’ sites and Community Recycling Centre’s meets their quality specification.

Eric Randall, Director of Bryson Recycling who chaired the scoping study, said: “Our rubbish is a resource and we should put it to good economic use. This means jobs and economic activity on a much bigger scale than most people realise”.

O’Donnell added: “This report will encourage all of us in Northern Ireland to pay more attention to the environmental impact of our actions, helping us identify ways to change our behaviour to play a more sustainable, restorative role in the world around us.”

The Collaborative Circular Economy Network’s scoping study is available to read and download on the Bryson Recycling website.

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