Recycling rates under threat

Although we in South Holland are currently enjoying some success in our campaign to increase recycling, the article below highlights the challenges yet to come.
Just some of the emerging issues for us, will be the end of the external funding pot we succeeded in gaining a couple of years ago. Added to this, Lincolnshire County Council, in their wisdom and for no other reason than to save money for themselves and grab the available materials revenue, are in the process of taking control of our recycling. We will have to continue to collect the recycling, but the council will not receive any recycling credits from the county council, with the county also receiving the £10 a ton we currently get.
As is usual with everything the county council does, it hadn’t thought through the details and have now had to come up with an incentive scheme for those districts they have ‘stolen’ recycling collections from. Without such a scheme, why would we bother to continue to put any effort into increasing our recycling collection rate?
Further pressure is also being applied by the recycling industry, under the cloak of an environmental pressure group. Supposedly committed to ‘saving the planet’ by increasing recycling rates, the group is actually funded by the recycling industry, so have more of a financial imperative than an environmental one. I believe that, despite loosing a high court case, they are still trying to ‘force’ councils into collecting recycling in separate streams, as opposed to a single container, as we do in South Holland.

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Recycling could fall for first time this century
8 December, 2014 | By Corin Williams

Local authority budget cuts and new recycling standards could lead to a reduction in England’s recycling rates for the first time this century.

With a tiny 0.05 percentage point increase in English local authority household recycling between 2012 and 2013, to 44.16%, it is now considered highly unlikely that the UK will meet the target set by the EU that 50% of waste will be recycled by 2020.

The Chartered Institution for Wastes Management (CIWM) said there was a “real risk” that recycling rates would decline over the next 12 months.

Chief executive Steve Lee said: “We have seen a lot of welcome emphasis recently on recycling quality. Now the government must put quantity back at the top of the priority list.”

A new code of practice aims to boost the quality of waste materials sent for recycling. One consequence of this could be that waste management companies increase the quality threshold for material they receive from local authorities – thereby reducing the recycling rate.

Steve Rymill, a waste management consultant at the environment and energy firm Ricardo-AEA, told LGC’s sister title Materials Recycling World that councils’ environmental and regulatory service budgets had fallen by 16% between 2010-11 and 2013-14.

“Authorities have been evaluating what their statutory service requirements are and this has meant that a number of areas, such as communications and food waste collections, have been subject to significant cuts,” he said.

The budget just isn’t there to fund the much-needed communications campaigns required to further improve recycling performance.

“The authorities that have seen big increases in their recycling rate are where they have generally coincided with a service change – something which requires positive communications messages to residents.”

Mr Rymil said it was a particular concern that some councils had actually seen a decline in rates, which was partly blamed on street sweeping being reclassified and garden waste services being retracted.

“We’d expect this to continue next year, as more authorities are considering paring back their service, where permissible.”

Phil Conran, director at consultancy 360 environmental, told MRW some councils with high rates were seeing a significant proportion rejected with contractors complaining the material was not good enough to recycle.

High recycling rates achieved at the expense of quality are generally not sustainable,” he said.

“Some [recycling plants] might prevent local authorities from delivering [mixed]materials with glass in it, because of quality issues and because of the potential impact of the code of practice. If they revert to bottle banks to collect glass rather than as part of the mix, that would potentially depress recycling rates.

“I think there is every possibility that the rates will decline.”

Mr Conran added that many questions remained over why some English councils achieved high rates when others floundered. “The UK clearly can achieve [the EU target of] 50%. It’s just a matter of bringing everyone up to best practice,” he said.

Meanwhile, the latest statistics on waste and recycling in Wales indicate the country is on track to meet its 2015-16 statutory target, the Welsh environment ministry has said, with one council recycling more than 70% of its waste.

Between April and June, Welsh local authorities recycled, reused or composted 58% of municipal waste, an all-time high.

This is in line with a 58% target for 2015-16.

“Wales is the only UK nation to set statutory recycling targets and we are leading the way in the UK,” said natural resources minister Carl Sargeant. “Welsh local authorities are already meeting the European target of recycling a minimum of 50% by 2020.”

Most Welsh councils reported a quarter-on-quarter increase in the period and recycled over half of the waste they collected, except for Rhondda Cynon Taf, which slipped six percentage points to 47%.

The best performer was Denbighshire, which topped the table with a municipal waste reuse, recycling and composting rate of 71%, followed by Pembrokeshire at 69%, Monmouthshire at 66% and Bridgend at 64%.

Our way of recycling should be safe – for now

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Be aware of new recycling regulations
11 March, 2014 | By Andrew Bird

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs recently published the long-awaited materials recovery facility regulations and a summary of responses from last year’s consultation.

The regulations aim to drive up the quality of both materials entering such facilities and the output of materials sold on for reprocessing.

A mandatory code of practice will come into effect this autumn, requiring all facilities processing more than 1,000 tonnes of material to sample and report on inputs and the various materials streams resulting from sorting and separation.

While I think the regulations could have gone further, I welcome their introduction.

They will serve to increase confidence in the purchasing of materials from MRFs by reprocessors, supporting the move towards a more circular economy.

The regulations will be enforced by the Environment Agency and Natural Resources Wales through one pre-arranged inspection and one unannounced inspection each year.

So what will the code mean for councils?

It should enable them and waste companies to demonstrate greater transparency and provide mechanisms which help reassure residents that the efforts they put into recycling result in high-quality materials.

It will also help reassure that the commingling of recycling collections can deliver high-quality materials, and help to provide a more robust monitoring framework to assess whether commingled collections meet the requirements of the revised Waste Framework Directive, or TEEP.

So what is TEEP?

In essence it refers to it being technically, environmentally and economically practicable to collect each material separately.

Technically practicable means that separate collection may be implemented through systems developed and proven to function in practice.

Environmentally practicable means the added value of ecological benefits justifies possible negative environmental effects of separate collection.

Economically practicable refers to separate collections that do not cause excessive costs in comparison with the treatment of a non-separated waste stream, taking into account the added value of recovery and recycling and the principle of proportionality.

If you are not currently aware of the implications of the revised Waste Framework directive and its implications for your authority, you need to consider them urgently, and particularly if you are considering changes to the way you collect materials for recycling.

Here are the articles pertinent to Waste Collection Authorities:

Article 4 – Waste hierarchy

Article 10 – Recovery. Paragraph 2 – first mention of waste needing to be collected separately to facilitate or improve recovery if it is TEEP.

Article 11 – Re-use and recycling – about promoting re-use of products and high-quality recycling

Article 13 – Protection of human health and the environment

Article 15 – Responsibility for waste management

If you are unaware of the implications of the revised directive and its implications for your authority, you need to consider them urgently, particularly if you are changing the way you collect materials for recycling.

These requirements come into force in 2015, so decisions taken now and in the future need to be robust.

Andrew Bird, chair, Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee