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Degrees of separation … quality is the key

25th January 2013 Posted by

Councils and private sector waste management service providers are watching anxiously as the row over whether they should be compelled to collect recyclates separately will be tested in the Courts in late February.  The Waste Directive says that Councils must introduce ‘separate’ collections for paper, metal, glass and plastics by 2015.  The question is whether this literally means collecting these four materials in four separate receptacles, or whether they can be co-mingled as a mixed stream and separated out later.  Can both systems co-exist under the Directive rules, or is co-mingling prohibited?  Some Councils are not waiting until the issue is resolved – Devon Waste Partnership has announced the introduction of a co-mingled collection scheme for 40,000 households from June.

The view of many front-line operators is that ultimately what counts is whether the quality of the material meets market needs.  If that quality can be met through co-mingled collection, so be it.  In some cases separate collection might be necessary, in others it might be simply impractical or too costly to implement.  Flexibility combined with cost-effectiveness is the key — bespoke solutions tailored to specific local circumstances.  In the waste management industry, an imposed one-size-fits-all solution rarely works to the benefit of the public purse.

3 comments on "Degrees of separation … quality is the key"

  • totally agree – to suggest one extreme or the other is the only acceptable solution is barmy, in actual fact many commingled collectors dont fully commingle they leave glass or paper out and go twin stream, equally even many of those extremely ideologically wedded to kerbside sort / source separated collections actually mix together certain streams e.g. cardboard and paper or grades of paper or most certainly ferrous and non-ferrous cans – so all recyclign is mixed to some extent and all has to be sorted, graded, filtered, checked to remove contamination even kerbside sorted material has non-acceptable items within it, be it lids on bottles, labels etc etc, these are removed as part of the recycling process. I think the government and EU are correct therefore to make clear that commingled collections are perfectly acceptable so long as good quality material is produced. and that is not just about collection methods, its about input controls, specification, communication and eduction of both collection crews and the general public.

  • Research shows than on average 10% of the recycling collected commingled gets thrown away – so until they can improve this I dont think this can be a good way to collect it. Also what is left is made less valuable due to eg. microfragments of plastic in the glass and the paper being wet and soiled rather than clean and dry like when you collect kerbside sort

  • commingled collections are

    – easier to use for the customer
    – easier to use for the crews
    – easier to communicate
    – more straightforward
    – results in higher participation rates
    – results in more capture
    – allows for a wider range of materials to be recycled
    – makes it easier to recycle and reduces waste to landfill
    – generally costs less to operate
    – is tidier cleaner and removes issues around windblown litter
    – significantly improves health and safety removing manual handling of boxes
    – saves taxpayers money
    – allows for compaction reducing haulage
    – needs fewer vehicle movements thus less deisel and less CO2
    – are popular with the public
    – boosts recycling rates
    – are a win, win, win for everyone

    Whats not to like?

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