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100 years of waste management

Highlights and milestones from the pages of MRW

4 May 1912

The Waste Trade World is launched as the only journal of its type “in the British Empire”, circulated among merchants, dealers and buyers of scrap iron and metals, metallic residues, glass cullet, rags, wool, paper stock, waste rubber, cotton, wool and jute, scrap leather, glue stock, bones, horns and hoofs, skins, hair, feathers, and sacks.

The magazine is published every Saturday at an annual subscription cost of 6s, or 8s for foreign and colonial readers. It boasts of being an unrivalled advertising medium for these trades.

6 May 1922

The top on the news agenda was a campaign by the second-hand bottle trade urging government to impose restrictions on the import of bottles. The Association of Glass Bottle Manufacturers of Great Britain and Ireland complained that bottles from Holland were undercutting British bottles, in breach of the Safeguarding of Industries Act 1921. Other stories include plans to vary minimum pay rates for some workers and to cancel the guaranteed time-rates for female piece workers.

7 May 1932

The world depression is biting hard but the leading article reassures readers that while they could take the credit for their business success in the boom years, they should not take the blame for bad trade.

2 May 1942

Waste Trade World now incorporates the Iron and Steel Scrap Review.  Top of the ‘Notes of the Week’ column is wartime war over waste…. An outraged MP complained that a local authority that had formed a “very good waste collection scheme that took the form of a fortnightly drive by the council’s vans at an appointed time” was being thwarted by a certain firm arriving just before, leaving the dustmen with nothing or very little. The outraged author retorts that salvage is the waste trade’s job and nobody else’s.  Doesn’t the member know that the war effort could not go on without the trade?  Elsewhere, an advertisement from G Rollinson & Co Ltd asks “sell us your scrap to be made into weapons of victory”.

3 May 1952

Waste Trade World celebrates its 40th anniversary with a special supplement, which honours the “stalwarts of the waste reclamation trade”. A special page honoured “women in the trade”, such as Miss Kathleen Lupton, a comparative newcomer with 18 years in the waste rubber section, who at 35 became chief buyer and travelled throughout Europe.

5 May 1962

The “as I see it” column comments on the “strong line” adopted by President Kennedy in forcing US steel-makers to abandon a price increase, and intervention in Western Germany to persuade car manufacturers to cancel proposed price increases. The same result might be achieved in a more roundabout and less direct way, the author concludes.

1 May 1982

The magazine, now known as Materials Reclamation Weekly and costing 32p a week, leads on a victory in Scotland. The British Scrap Federation and the British Secondary Metals Association fended off government plans to impose crippling restrictions, including that purchases of scrap in Scotland should be left unprocessed for 48 hours. Elsewhere a feature focuses on “The dismal record of resource recovery in the United States – a lesson to learn from”. A monthly feature looks at the role of voluntary organisations in collecting reclaimable materials.

2 May 1992

Stories include Friends of the Earth calling for tougher policies on landfill gas. Meanwhile, the Packaging and Industrial Films Association called for unreclaimable plastics to be used as fuel instead of being sent to landfill.

3 May 2002

Materials Recycling Week, as the magazine is now called, reports that the PRN system in its current form would fail to meet the 2006 Packaging Directive targets. Meanwhile, the Environment Agency released a new guidance note on recovering ozone-depleting substances from waste fridges, and an Australian company developed a new alterative to plastic packaging made from corn starch and synthetic degradable polymers.

4 May 2012

MRW celebrates 100 years to the day after the first edition was published in 1912. Special features, competitions, a celebratory supplement and other activities will mark the centenary year opver the coming months.


Key industry milestones:

  • 1919 National Federation of Scrap Iron and Steel Merchants founded
  • 1933 Foundation of British Plastics Federation and discovery of Polyethylene
  • 1935 Nylon patented
  • 1937 Polystyrene first produced
  • 1942 British Secondary Metal Association (BSMA) founded
  • 1957 Polypropylene first produced
  • 1979 First PVC-U windows installed in UK
  • 1979 First PET bottles manufactured in UK
  • 1982 Stirrings of the wood recycling industry. Previously most waste wood went to landfill via “council tips”, or was burned on construction/demolition sites.The panel board industry decides that waste wood, because of its low moisture content, will make a valuable ingredient for their products. Gradually, a small number of waste companies, recyclers, composters and farmers see commercial opportunity in wood recycling, and start to diversify.
  • 1988 Government legislates to require scrap metal companies to be licensed as a ‘waste disposal’ activity
  • 1988 Triangular symbols for plastics material identification introduced
  • 1989 BPF sets up Sheffield Reclamation Centre
  • 1998 PRN system introduced
  • 1994 National Federation of Scrap Iron and Steel Merchants renamed as British Metals Federation (BMF)
  • 1999 BSMA sponsors MRW crossword
  • 2001 BMF and BSMA join to form British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA)
  • 2001 6 pioneer companies start the Wood Recyclers’ Association (WRA) in March, under the chairmanship of Michael Tracey of Tracey Timber Recycling. Eleven more companies join that year, including the first machinery suppliers. 95% of the industry output goes to the panelboard industry at that stage.
  • 2001 WRAP is founded the same day as the Wood Recyclers’ Association.
  • 2005 WRA membership now 34. First international member (IQR of Sweden) joins. Geoff Hadfield of G I Hadfield and Son takes over the chair. By this time, new markets are emerging - animal bedding and landscaping - for high quality recycled wood.
  • 2008 The WRA’s influence in improving industry standards is reflected in the publication of its Code of Practice and Protocol for Verification of Wood Packaging. First annual market statistic shows industry output of almost 2MT (about40% of arisings). Biomass emerging as a strong new market.
  • 2009 WRA membership tops 60. Water-shed decision to accept Timberpak (recycling arm of Egger panelboard manufacturer) as member. Clem Spencer of Wood Yew Waste becomes WRA’s third chairman. Process begins to develop a quality protocol and a standard (PAS111) for recycled wood.
  • consumer wood. Membership now includes energy suppliers and a variety of valued “service” members - suppliers, consultants, councils etc.011 WRA membership now over 80 companies which together process over 80% of UK’s post-2
  • 2012 Industry standard, PAS111, published. 2011 market statistic shows throughput of almost 3MT (over 70% of total arisings) of which 36% was exported. Biomass becomes the biggest market for the first time.

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