More UK capacity for materials recycling facilities (MRFs) producing higher quality output was called for at a Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) organised forum on discussing the future of MRFs.
WRAP chairman Vic Cocker said estimates put the current UK MRF capacity at 3.5 million tonnes, with current throughput estimated at about 1.1 million tonnes. Logically, the UK should have enough capacity to handle its material, but Cocker said that anecdotal evidence indicated that there was a shortage.
Looking at MRF capacity on a regional basis, Cocker said that huge gaps could be seen between capacity and the recyclables generated. For example the North West was estimated to produce 1.43 million tonnes of dry recyclables a year, but only has a maximum MRF capacity of 200,000 tonnes per annum.
We are seeing tremendous growth [in recycling rates] in every region and this would increase with more MRF capacity, he said.
But he added: It is essential that a MRF is a value factory. Its not just about separating materials but making them ready [for reprocessing].
Paper reprocessor Aylesford Newsprint highlighted the problem reprocessors faced from MRF output with contamination levels being unacceptably high from such sources.
But WRAP chief executive Jennie Price said that while there is good practice out there there is room for improvement.
She added there was room for growth, better practice and scope for the UK to learn from abroad. Price highlighted the need for more MRF capacity in the UK, particularly looking forward, to handle the increased recyclable material that the UK expects to capture.
The output quality of material generated from MRFs was important, as was reducing the rate of residual material.
MRFs can deliver - its about the quality of output rather than the collection method, she added.