MRFs could expand their recycling waste streams while improving the quality of existing recyclates by reducing contaminants, make more money and save on landfill costs.
These were the findings of a report published today by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) that looked at the feasibility and financial viability of MRFs taking on new materials.
The report ‘Making the most of new materials’ was composed of two studies. The first one looked into the feasibility of introducing new material streams and the second study looked at financial viability and end markets.
The materials it looked at included: old corrugated cardboard, other cardboard, beverage cartons, mixed rigid plastics, glass, aluminium aerosols, aluminium foil, textiles and plastic film.
In the case of mixed plastics the report identified 150,000 tonnes of material that could be recovered each year, that is currently exported, estimated to be worth between £6m and £60m – depending on investment in UK recycling infrastructure.
An extra 150,000 tonnes of old corrugated cardboard could be recycled at a value of around £9m a year, and an extra 55,000 tonnes of glass that could be recycled yearly worth £7.5m.
The report evaluated single stream commingled direct to picking line MRF; a single stream commingled with mechanical 2D/3D separation MRF; and a two stream commingled (2D fibres and 3D containers) MRF.
It found that when adding materials to existing facilities, hand picking would be the best method initially due to its relatively low investment and risk involved. However, larger more mechanised plants with less storage could consider a more automated approach.
The report concluded that introducing new waste streams had both financial and environmental benefits and may even improve the quality of existing outputs. But it warned: “The key point is that each site is unique, with its own potential and limitations. If operators and local authorities consider each new addition in relation to the existing operation, they will be in a position to take advantage of valuable tonnages – raising quality outputs and diverting even more material from landfill.”
The report also found that some 25,000 tonnes of beverage cartons could be recycled worth £1.1m, plus 6,000 tonnes of aluminium aerosols worth £1.08m and 16,000 tonnes of aluminium foil worth £290,000.
Recycling wood and expanded polystyrene were also considered, but the report found it was “impractical” to recycle these from the kerbside - as opposed to recycling centres - as the supply was inconsistent.
To view the report in full visit the WRAP website here.