It is up to recycling reprocessors to increase the quality standard of the material they require for material recycling facilities to work to that standard, according to a Norfolk-based MRF operator.
Speaking to MRW Indigo Waste Services managing director Gary Lee said that MRFs are only working to the standard that reprocessors, such as paper mills, want the material to. If people [recycling reprocessors] increase their quality standard the MRFs will also increase their quality.
His comments come after the Campaign for Real Recycling (CRR) wrote an open letter, last week, to the major political parties calling on the next Government to ensure that the monitoring of materials rejected by MRF operations is tightened to create a clearer record.
Lee also said that local authority recycling rates are currently based on the amount of tonnages they get from the materials they collect. He said that because of this most local authorities will always opt to collect commingled materials over source-separated ones. He added: In an ideal world we would all like to collect cans, plastic, newspaper and magazines separately but it will take a lot of money to change local authorities perspectives on opting for source segregated collections over commingled materials.
In response to Lees comments, CRR coordinator Andy Moore said: With too few exceptions, UK MRFs are sadly not producing anything like the quality required by UK reprocessors of domestic material. The comprehensive MRF Quality Assessment Study from the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) last November shows this very clearly. Over the years during which WRAP has been diligently seeking the grail of acceptable ex-MRF material, the general quality of it has actually deteriorated rather than improved in the experience of CRR stakeholders. There are
insufficient incentives for MRF operators to make the improvement. Their income derives primarily from the gate fees and secondarily from material value and there are still enough outlets for low quality ex-MRF material in export beyond Europe.
Moore explained that WRAP figures suggest that average reject rates from single-stream MRFS have been increasing for the past two or three years.
He added: There is no trade-off required between material quality and kerbside collection cost. Both Welsh Assembly Government and WRAP have produced reports showing that source separation of recyclable materials by the householder is clearly the best economic option and explaining why this is.