Research to establish the carbon footprints of different recyclate collection methods has been announced by the Campaign for Real Recycling (CRR).
The study, which will be carried out in partnership with the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP), could influence the type of system local authorities choose in future.
CRR chairman Mal Williams explained that the research was needed because the current information available to councils was piecemeal. He added: WRAP has a key role to play, with its understanding of life cycle issues and recycling research.
Novelis national manager Andy Doran said he was concerned that some councils would assume a carbon footprint just referred to how much fuel is used during a collection. But he said: Transport may be the publically conspicuous aspect but it also may represent less than 1% of carbon emissions.
Doran said that oversimplified estimates could lead to miscalculations being magnified once material had gone outside councils boundaries. He also said that good quality material improves recyclings carbon benefits and, citing indicative analysis, he said carbon emissions could be doubled by contamination.
He said that destination transparency was all important for local authorities to be able to assess carbon footprint.
WRAP Director of Local Government Services Phillip Ward said: We know a lot of local authorities are interested in understanding the carbon implications of their choices. Achieving carbon reductions through recycling is important to us and WRAP is committed to helping people make well informed choices.
Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (Larac) chairman Lee Marshall added: "The carbon footprint of a service is an important consideration that sits alongside others such as the suitability of the scheme for the local area, cost and local reprocessing opportunities."