The Campaign for Real Recycling has rubbished the findings of the WYG report commissioned by Greenstar and dismissed its data as “third hand”.
Published yesterday, ‘Review of Kerbside Recycling Collection Schemes Operated by Local Authorities’ said that while there was no “one size fits all” collection solution for local authorities, there was clear evidence to back the success of commingled systems. (See previous MRW story)
CRR coordinator Andy Moore said: “It is hardly surprising that a report commissioned by one of the UK’s largest commingling companies would reach these conclusions. The authors seem to have been somewhat selective in asking consumers about the acceptability of ex- MRF materials.”
Moore criticised the report’s authors for not consulting any of CRR’s stakeholders in the study. These include reprocessors “who experience difficulties with ex MRF tonnage” such as Paperchain, Ardagh Glass, Berryman Glass, Chase Plastics, Novelis, Linpac Packaging and the Textile Recycling Association.
Linpac Packaging purchasing manager Bernard Chase said: “Are they perhaps worried that if they did for once consult those that do reprocess rather than only those that don’t, they might not get the answers they have been engaged to provide?”
CRR has challenged WYG to back up its claims and say which reprocessors will corroborate the statement: “Our discussions with UK reprocessors indicated that materials from MRFs are just as acceptable as kerbside sorted materials.”
The report’s assertion that MRFs produce material of comparable quality to kerbside sort systems is disputed by CRR. “Some ex-MRF paper may be usable but any suggestion that it maintains quality approaching as little as 1% contamination is fantasy. Moreover an average reject rate of 13% and the inefficiency that this implies can’t just be wished away. The 13% figure was derived from analysing MRFs directly, not third hand from WasteDataFlow as are those in the report.”
Moore criticised the report’s statements on quantities diverted, systems costs and recycling rates achieved for failing to apply “some fundamental rules of whole system thinking”. And said no consideration had been given to:
- the impact of systems on overall waste arisings,
- the lower levels of residual waste generated from kerbside sort systems,
- the impact of the use of appropriate recycling capacity,
- and the thorny issue of materials “supposedly sent for recycling ending up as landfill from the back end of the reprocessing facility”.
WYG said its report aimed to rebalance the commingled vs kerbside sort debate. Kerbside sort has received the backing of the Waste & Resources Action Programme as a collection method that yields higher quality materials at lower overall cost. WYG report co-author Len Attrill told MRW this had made some local authorities operating successful commingled schemes question whether they were using the right system.
But Moore said councils should back WRAP: “We can see nothing in this report which should cause any local authority to question WRAP’s analysis or judgement regarding choice of system. Indeed it seems more likely calculated simply to improve the saleability of Greenstar as a business.”
WYG response to CRR criticisms:
In response to criticisms from the CRR on the WYG ‘Review of Kerbside Recycling Collection Schemes’ report WYG has said its report was conducted “professionally and independently to ensure we provide a well-balanced, factual study for our valued clients”.
WYG co-author Len Attrill strongly denied that WYG suggested commingling is best: “At no point did we say commingled is always best - in fact WYG has many clients whom we support in their informed choice of kerbside sort as an appropriate recycling system.”
Attrill went on to address other comments made by CRR:
“CRR says that we were selective as to which reprocessors we spoke to. It is true that we did not speak to every reprocessor, particularly since our study was looking at several facets of the debate (including capture rates and cost), and not just this particular matter. Of those we did speak to, the majority asked for anonymity, and we do not intend to break those confidences.”
With regard to MRF contamination rates, he said: “Our report does in fact discuss contamination rates at MRFs, so the comments about the report not considering the ‘thorny issue of materials supposedly sent for recycling ending up as landfill from the back end of the reprocessing facility’ are inappropriate.”
Finally, he addressed the criticisms that the WYG report gives no consideration to the impact of systems on overall waste arisings: “The implication that lower levels of residual waste are the preserve of kerbside sort systems doesn’t seem consistent with official figures. Several of the local authorities with the lowest overall volumes of waste per household use commingled systems for dry recyclables, including Mid Suffolk, Worcester and Havant, as do several of the local authorities with the lowest volumes of residual i.e. not composted or recycled, waste per household, such as East Lindsey, Mid Suffolk, Huntingdonshire, Uttlesford and Mole Valley.”
Greenstar response to CRR criticisms:
Greenstar UK chief executive Ian Wakelin has responded strongly to criticism by the CRR which attacked a Greenstar-commissioned research report into recycling collection systems published this week.
“The CRR’s response is entirely predictable. Methinks they doth protest too much. There is a rather nasty implication that Greenstar ‘fixed’ this report in its favour. Perhaps the CRR would like to clarify and explain the nuance behind that implication and its bearing on the reputations of those involved.
“Sadly for the CRR, the facts identified by the research are just that: facts – such as 26 of the top 30 dry recycling councils use commingling collections.
“This research report has produced new facts and put them into the public domain so that local authorities and local people can make decisions about what is best for their particular needs and objectives. The CRR should live in the real world, rather than try and create a world governed by its preferences.
“If the CRR is right about low quality MRF outputs, we would not be able to sell our products and it will only be a matter of time before all MRFs in the UK file for insolvency. That is a laughable suggestion. Let the market decide.
“Greenstar has never had such a high demand for its recyclates. We could sell our MRF outputs three times over: that doesn’t sound like poor quality to me.
“The CRR seems intent on wasting time, breath and money by prolonging this debate, and is in danger of denying more of the British public the right to have the simplest recycling solution possible – a solution that, according to the facts, yields the highest landfill diversion rates.
“Far simpler, I say, to let local authorities make decisions on the facts as they see them as part of the most competitive public procurement process in Europe. Those facts are now in the public domain in many forms. So let’s stop this endless debate.”