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Recycling of valuable materials should not be discouraged
Based on a February 13, 2013 Press Release from UK-based Confederation of Paper Industries.

A recent article in the Daily Mail ("Recycling con: Millions of tons end up in landfill as officials admit success is exaggerated," 11/2/13), highlights a number of issues associated with household waste and recycling collections. Confederation of Paper Industries (CPI) agrees that resolute action to improve the quality of paper and other materials collected for recycling is absolutely necessary, but the recycling of valuable resources should not be discouraged.

In response to the article, CPI wishes to make the following points:

  • Recovered paper is the most important raw material for the UK Paper and Board Industry. The overall UK recycling rate for paper is c.73%, making it the most recycled of all household/commercial resources;

  • "Quality recovered paper" is used paper and board which has been collected from the waste stream and can be used, without further sorting, in the papermaking process to make new paper and board products. CPI believes that this is best achieved by segregating the used paper at the source of its production (e.g. by the householder) in order to minimise contamination during the recovery process;

  • Whilst there are specific issues affecting how paper and other recyclable materials are managed following collection from households, any implication that householders are deliberately "having the wool pulled over their eyes" is simply counter-productive. Recycling processing systems must be improved, but that is not good reason enough for householders not to bother recycling in the first place;

  • Contamination can be particularly prevalent in "single stream" (co-mingled) collection schemes. This is where all recyclables--paper, glass, cans, plastic etc.--are stored together in a "wheelie bin" and collected, mixed (and often compacted) in the same vehicle before being sorted out again at a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF). The amount of "input" material rejected at the MRF due to contamination from households can be upwards of 10%;

  • All successful recycling collection services require clear communication from councils to help householders understand what materials can be included for recycling in their areas, and how these materials should be presented. This can help to reduce the level of contaminated material entering MRFs in the first instance. Contrary to being an additional cost burden to cash-strapped councils, effective communications campaigns can result in net savings by maximising the quality (and therefore the monetary value) of material being collected for recycling. Government should therefore encourage Local Authorities to provide value for money services by retaining budgets for recycling marketing/education campaigns;

  • Further material can be rejected at the re-processors (e.g. the paper mill) due to "output" contamination from MRFs. Improving the future performance of MRFs will be absolutely essential if the maximum value of these materials--to everyone's benefit--is to be realised;

  • CPI understands that the Government is developing a mechanism to help councils account for the weight of contaminants that is disposed of by re-processors. Once in place, this mechanism should help to provide a truer reflection of the amount of material genuinely sent for recycling;

  • Widespread evidence suggests that councils offering reduced refuse collection frequency alongside good recycling collection systems can reward taxpayers with higher recycling rates, reduced waste disposal costs and income from the sale of good quality recyclable materials such as paper. Weekly refuse collection just doesn't make sense, particularly once a weekly food waste service is offered;

  • CPI concurs that "recycling has now levelled off and amounts of household rubbish sent to power-generating incinerators are going up." Energy recovery is a better option than landfill, but recyclable paper must only be used for energy recovery at the end of its life- cycle, when it can no longer be recycled into new paper.

The Confederation of Paper Industries (CPI) aims to unify the UK's paper-based industries with a single purpose in promoting paper's intrinsic value as a renewable and sustainable fibre-based material. It represents the supply chain for paper, comprising recovered paper merchants, paper and board manufacturers and converters, corrugated packaging producers and makers of soft tissue papers including 70 Member companies from an industry with an aggregate annual turnover of 5 billion, 25,000 direct and more than 100,000 indirect employees. For further information contact Stuart Pohler at: [email protected] or visit www.paper.org.uk.

 

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