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Poor quality recyclate costs industry £51m a year

Better regulation is needed to reduce the costs of poor quality recyclate, a report from the Resource Association claims.

In its Costs of Contamination Report 2012, the trade body says that poor and inconsistent quality recyclate costs jobs and investment.

It estimates that there are more than £51 million a year of costs associated with the management of poor and inconsistent quality recyclate, representing an average of £15.67 per tonne for the 3 million tonnes of reprocessing capacity included in the survey.

The report surveyed all of the Resource Association’s reprocessor members and all nine reprocessors participated in the research, representing around half of the UK reprocessing capacity for paper and card, plastics, aluminium and glass, the association estimates.

Resource Association chief executive Ray Georgeson said: “The drive for quantity has come in part at the expense of quality, and what might be seen as the delivery of cost savings at the collection end of recycling appears simply to be shifting costs into the manufacturing end of recycling.  We question how long the UK reprocessing sector must carry this burden.”

The association is calling for better regulation for the output of MRFs, robust monitoring and inspections as part of a mandatory MRF Code of Practice, better enforcement of TFS regulations for exports, and more government research into the operation of the supply chain.

The report acknowledges that it covers the association’s members only and does not extrapolate the findings to create a wider UK view. However it concludes: “We have concentrated on reporting real data from the membership of the Resource Association. It would be reasonable to conclude however, that other reprocessors may face a similar burden and so the real cost of poor and inconsistent quality recyclate to UK manufacturing will be much higher.”

The Environmental Services Association (ESA) said that the most important thing was to create a transparent market.

ESA director of policy Matthen Farrow said: “The levels of non-target material in recyclate can depend on householder behaviour, collection method, and, where the material passes through a MRF, the sorting equipment and management systems in the MRF. 

“The aim should be a transparent market where reprocessors know exactly what they are buying and a price is set which reflects the quality of the material and the investments made at both collection/sorting and reprocessing parts of the supply chain. 

“Making the ESA Code of Practice for MRFs mandatory will help deliver this and we are pleased that the Resource Association agrees with the ESA on this. We hope that the Defra consultation on recyclate quality due out in January will propose a mandatory Code of Practice.”

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