Resource Use

Reprocessors detail highest acceptable levels of contamination

The second stage of the Resource Association’s Recycling Quality Information Point (ReQIP) has been published today (9 September), detailing the maximum level of cross contamination that reprocessors can accept if material is to be considered suitable for ‘high-quality recycling’.

Under the European revised Waste Framework Directive, by 1 January 2015 all member states will have to ‘take measures to promote high quality recycling and, to this end, shall set up separate collections of waste where technically, environmentally and economically practicable [TEEP] and appropriate to meet the necessary quality standards for the relevant recycling sectors’.

However, UK central government has said it will not issue any guidance on what qualifies as ‘high-quality recycling’ or TEEP, instead calling on industry to ‘step forward and provide advice to local authorities on how to comply with legislation on separate collections’.

As such, the Resource Association (RA), which represents members of the reprocessing and recycling industries and their supply chain, responded by developing ReQIP, a web-based information hub that aims to provide ‘a convenient reference point for understanding reprocessors’ recyclate quality requirements’.

ReQIP details

The first stage of ReQIP, which launched in June of this year, set out the maximum overall level of contamination that can be handled by reprocessors of each major recycling stream. Alongside this, the RA published sample specification information from many individual reprocessors, including all of its reprocessor members.

The second stage of this project, unveiled today, provides information about the impact specific contaminants have on the quality of recyclate, and how each contaminant subsequently affects the market value of the recyclate.

A reference chart also sets out the maximum level of cross contamination that reprocessors can accept if the material is to be considered suitable for ‘high-quality recycling’.

To help local authorities and companies collecting recyclables gauge the affect individual cross contaminants have on the market value of each type of recyclate, a grading system has been provided that distinguishes between six levels. This ranges from recyclates that can be reasonably mixed together without impacting on price, to recyclates that when mixed together in any notable proportions will be rejected by reprocessors.

In addition, the chart also provides advice for collectors about considerations that should be taken on board when rolling out a collection scheme for specific recyclables.

Providing a 'comprehensive account of UK reprocessor requirements'

Speaking of the second stage of ReQIP, RA Chief Executive Ray Georgeson said: “Local authorities and companies responsible for the collection and sale of recyclate want to know the impact that specific contaminants have on value. Furthermore, with the introduction of the Waste Regulations, there are requirements on collectors to ensure that material is suitable for high-quality recycling.

“This development of the ReQIP project provides a comprehensive account of UK reprocessor requirements, which we hope will inform decisions at a crucial stage of the secondary materials supply chain.”

Chris Dow, CEO of plastic reprocessor Closed Loop Recycling, welcomed the second stage, saying: “This is an important development for local authorities who will now understand the impact that different collection systems can have on the recycling stream and how they can achieve maximum value from the materials they collect. 

"We believe this new system sets a benchmark for high quality recycling here in the UK, which will not only benefit the environment but will create economic benefits too at a time when local authorities are looking to make efficiencies. It’s yet another small step towards a circular economy.”

ReQIP has been compiled using data from 36 reprocessor companies and associations, which has been co-ordinated by the Resource Association and RA member and reprocessor industry specialist Peter Mansfield & Associates Ltd.

It represents quality specifications information for 12,917,800 tonnes of UK reprocessing of all key materials (paper, glass, plastics and metals) together with green and wood wastes, and a range of others including batteries, textiles and beverage cartons.

Print copies will be available at the Resource Association stand in the Materials Village at RWM, Stand 4J112 in the Professional Services Zone, and association staff will be present to answer questions in a ReQIP special session on the stand from 2.30-4.30 on Tuesday, 16 September.

Read the ReQIP Contamination Value Chart online.