Results showing households are correctly recycling more than 98% of materials could be misleading according to the Campaign for Real Recycling (CRR). The CRR said that the low material rejection rates, revealed by the Local Government Association (LGA) using Government WasteDataFlow figures for 2006/07 (February 15 2008, mrw.co.uk), could be a result of data misinterpretation.
CRR coordinator Andy Moore said: We think the LGA must have double counted. Taking the spreadsheet they indicate on their website (website in here), they have totted up the tonnage of all the authorities to obtain the 13 million tonne figure. The note at the top of the page is clear that the WCA figures are already included in the WDA ones. The column includes tonnage figures from both collection and disposal authorities (the latter in purple), so most of the tonnage has been counted twice.
The information may also be misleading as the reject data only describes material that has actually been rejected at the end facility, taking no cognisance of the contamination of accepted loads. It is clear that there are many local authorities who do not report any levels of rejection. It may be that some are exceedingly good, or have a materials recycling facility that either doesnt manage contamination on incoming loads, or doesnt reject for contamination.
Even more significant, these figures represent tonnage sent for recycling, reuse or composting, but are not necessarily indicative that these processes have been completed. It tells us nothing about the contamination level of the resulting material reaching the reprocessor or indeed, how much the reprocessor ends up rejecting. Wed be delighted if reject rates were as low as 1.6% but sadly were sure theyre still rather higher than that. Wed be pleased to discuss measurement methodology [with the LGA] at some point.
CRR also said that the data used by the LGA, taken from Defras WasteDataFlow, is as yet unvalidated. The Environment Agency will audit it later in the year.