Assumptions that one recycling collection method will always be cheaper or produce better quality are wrong according to research published today.
In a study into recycling services used by local authorities, the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) found that kerbside sort recycling collections beat single stream commingled methods on cost efficiency. However, two stream-commingled collections where paper is separate have similar net costs to kerbside sort.
WRAP director for local government services Phillip Ward said: Collection scheme costs are sensitive to many things, such as the price which can be achieved for recycled material. New technology means material sorted by materials recycling facilities (MRFs) is likely to improve in quality.
This means it would be wrong to assume that one type of collection scheme is always going to be cheaper or produce better quality material than another.
The study found that commingled costs increased when MRF separation was taken into account. Another assumption, that more recyclates were collected by commingled systems, was also challenged in the study. It said that the size of the collection bin determined the amounts people recycled.
In past research, WRAP found that kerbside sort schemes achieve higher quality recyclable materials than commingled collections because the risk of contamination is lower. However, the report acknowledged that different areas have different needs and there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all best scheme.
In fact, commingled schemes may be the best option in areas such as inner cities, the study said. In these areas, on-street parking prevents kerbside sorting and there are many multi-occupancy houses where it is difficult to store multiple containers.