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Letter to the editor - from Andy Doran

Sir -

Rarely have I read so many articles within one issue of any magazine that got me thinking and muttering to myself, which I hasten to add, is not a common phenomenon - the muttering that is! 

On that basis I must be one of the “people with passion” you referred to in one of your editorial comments, as I felt energized enough to write in response.  I was agreeing heartily with Bill Swan author of your first opinion piece about the bigger picture and context within which we all should be operating, only to swing to a heavily furrowed brow when reading Chindarat Taylor’s second opinion piece of the issue. 

I have immense respect for Chindarat personally and for the work that she is pioneering through Pathway to Zero Waste. However, despite having a self avowed ‘wider perspective’, I found myself focusing on one of the key issues in our current resources supply chain infrastructure – namely treating secondary materials as resources and nothing else. In that context I think it is a little too simplistic to suggest that a steelworks and an MRF have the same focus. I hope that I am frequently on record as stating that MRFs have a crucial role to play in the evolution of our sector. However if the answer to all the issues we currently face was as simple as getting all MRFs to adopt the same Total Quality Management approach that I assume the steel and other materials manufacturing sectors do, then we would be much further ahead on our path to zero waste, rather than being hindered by the hugely varying and occasionally high rejection rates which is the reality associated with this collection system.

Furthermore the current work of WRAP and numerous consultants to bring a manufacturing mentality to MRF management would not be needed.

For me and I think many others in this sector the real concern is that we seem very content to apply broad brush strokes to our analysis (of which I am sure I am guilty on occasion) and in doing so perhaps we close down our opportunities for learning as a result.  I am also equally sure that the MRF operators listed in this opinion piece would also not like to be lumped together with their counterparts in the sector – what commercial operators would? We all like to think we are distinct.  The remaining articles in the bumper edition returned to the theme of total resource management; May Gurney providing public services in Torbay and John Ferguson’s thoughts on the wider context of landfill bans.

So more of this please and as an aluminium manufacturer with a closed loop recycling process, I’ll do my bit and invite Chindarat to our plant and show her the evidence that supports my points above.  Another point I’ll take up with her is that despite its inviting name, Irn Bru is in fact packaged in aluminium beverage cans, ones which at end of life, if we can get them back to our plant, we will treat with a total quality approach to make them back into aluminium can sheet for future closed loop use.  For me that’s truly on the pathway to zero waste.

Andy Doran

National Recycling Manager

Novelis

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