Quality recycling needs more than just wishful thinking

Resource Association Chief Executive Ray Georgeson says more needs to be done to revive quality standards with the Chinese ban on waste imports looming.

Quality recycling needs more than just wishful thinkingWith the recent announcements from China on restricting imports of certain recyclates unless strict new quality thresholds are met, our industry is rapidly taking stock on the implications for our collection and sorting systems.

Noises are also being made again (not just by the Resource Association, one of four associations that implored Defra to take high-level action over the ban in September) about what more can and should be done to revive home market use of recycled materials and our manufacturing sectors through ‘demand-pull’ measures and a return to the model of recycling market development that served us well in the early 2000s when the UK first started to take its recycling policy seriously and set an ambitious course.

It’s easy for some to say that the ‘China crisis’ could have been predicted and more should have been done earlier to set manufacturing policy (or even industrial strategy) that nurtures and grows local markets for recyclate, but that’s not where we are.

With the Resource Association's recent Quality Recognition Awards, our members and suppliers have shown that consistent high quality recyclate can be produced in the UK and can supply local markets sustainably. Our nations now need to build on this and invigorate a fresh cross-sectoral, collaborative analysis of the barriers and opportunities across product and material streams, identifying fiscal, regulatory and voluntary measures that would build ‘demand-pull’ and do this in a way that takes the foundation work done in the decade that has passed (including the Report of the Market Development Group and the first WRAP Business Plan) and reinvent it for the decade or more to come.

We stand ready to support such an initiative as Defra prepares to refresh its Resources and Waste Strategy and look to others to join us, in the hope we can get beyond wishful thinking and move towards new, substantial policy that revives UK manufacturing and averts the worst of the China crisis.

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