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The poor quality of UK’s recyclates becoming a threat to the country’s performances!

  The poor quality of UK’s recyclates becoming a threat to the country’s performances! A recent analysis of UK’s waste management performances recognised the progress the UK has made on recycling but in parallel highlighted the challenges and complexities faced by this country’s waste collection and treatment system. In fact the UK household waste recycling increased from 7.5 per cent in 1995 to 43 per cent and is well on course to meet an EU target of 50 per cent by 2020. Average individuals are producing 88kg less annual waste than five years ago and, as a nation, the greenhouse gas emissions produce from it have fallen by 69.7 per cent since 1990.  

For the first time last year, the UK recycled more household waste than sent to landfill (10.7 million tonnes compared with 9.6 million). The recycling market has steadily grown, generates more than £10bn in sales (a three-fold increase since 1998) and employs more than 30,000 people. While landfilling was subject to an increasing environmental tax in the last 15 years, today a tonne of old plastic bottles can be sold on the recycling market for between £300 and £400, a tonne of paper is worth £100 and aluminium cans fetch up to £800 a tonne. So why would you throw this stuff away?

However the quality of recyclates sorted by the 120 MFRs (Materials Recovery Facilities) in the UK varies a lot. According to MRF, the 'co-mingled' waste (mixed waste) should be separated into 95 per cent pure bales of paper, plastic bottles, tin cans, drinks cans and so on. But Britain recyclers claim that many of the supposedly pure bales are actually impure and so unusable. This is one of the main reasons why around 70 per cent of the recyclates in the UK are sent to China (under European law, it is illegal to export waste but not to export materials for recycling). It cost time and money to remove the impure materials while in China the cheap labour allows it.

Considering the increasing scarcity of resources, it is therefore essential for local and regional authorities to have a clear legal and financial framework that will help them to implement efficient collection strategies, in particular selective collection, in order to keep this valuable material resource in-house rather than sending them abroad.

Regions for Recycling (R4R) is a 3-year European project (2012-2014) aiming to enable its partners to improve their recycling performance through consistent comparisons and an exchange of good practices. The project also aims at developing an online monitoring tool that will be presented and for which training will be provided during a conference in Tallinn (Estonia), on 03-05 December 2013.  

Source: article from “The Independent”

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