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Are reprocessors importing materials in place of inadequate quality materials in the UK?

Representatives of the UK Aluminium and paper industries have expressed mixed opinions on the Waste & Resources Action Programmes suggestion that high quality recovered materials are being imported to make up for inadequate UK materials.

WRAPs recent report Choosing the right recycling collection system states: In key areas e.g. paper, aluminium and certain types of glass, UK reprocessors are importing materials because sufficient material of the required quality is not available on the UK markets.

A paper industry insider disagreed. He said: We are producing a high enough quality of materials in the UK for our paper mills. Those people not producing a good standard wouldnt be able to shift the material. It is true that household waste can be easily contaminated but its not a major issue, and it doesnt reflect the overall performance of the industry. Materials recycling facilities have been improved hugely over recent years, raising the quality of material output.

Confederation of Paper Industries recovered paper sector manager Peter Seggie said: There are no signs of significant increases in recovered paper being imported into the UK in the H M Revenue and Customs data that CPI compile. Indeed there was a fall in 2008 compared to 2007 - 88,000 tonnes against 72,000 tonnes respectively.

A test of UK quality, particularly for old newspapers and magazines, is likely to come when the new PALM newsprint machine comes on line later this year.

Novelis Recycling operates the largest dedicated used beverage can (UBC) recycling facility in Europe, which has a current capacity of 130,000 tonnes. As a founder member of the Campaign for Real Recycling, it has been actively lobbying for an increased focus on quality from UK sources. Its plant in Warrington does import material but the company says its operation is not solely focused on the UK market.

National manager Andy Doran said: The UK recycles just 50 per cent of its cans and we dont take all of them, so we have to import from Europe in order to meet the commercial demand and the sites capacity.

However, as a closed loop process, we need a high quality of aluminium and due to the different collecting methods of local authorities there is a definite quality variation.

Doran added that if and when the UK could meet its demands for UBCs it would reduce the level of imports from elsewhere in the EU.

WRAP chief executive Liz Goodwin said: We stand by our report 100 per cent. We sat in a room of leading figures in the UK reprocessing industry and were told that companies were obliged to import materials due to a lack of good quality material available from domestic markets.

By including this issue in our report, we were reflecting the concerns shared with us by industry leaders and their desire to see change.


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