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Scottish council justifies commingling drive

A Scottish council has defended a move to the commingled collection of recyclables, including glass, despite new regulations north of the border recommending the source segregation of materials.

Aberdeen City Council has started a trial to provide some residents with a 240-litre wheeled bin to collect mixed recycling. The switch to commingled collections across the local authority is planned for 2015.

But under the Waste (Scotland) Regulations 2012, which came into force in January, waste holders, including councils, have a duty to “take reasonable steps” to increase the quantity and quality of recyclable materials. Separate collections are deemed as the “most likely” to results in materials for “high quality” recycling.

Fully commingled systems, such as the one Aberdeen is testing, are not completely ruled out, but are described as “unlikely to be acceptable” because of quality issues with glass and paper.

Peter Lawrence, waste and recycling manager at Aberdeen City Council, told MRW that commingling was the only way for the local authority to comply with the regulations and provide all households with the same collection service. The system is expected to treble recycling capacity.

“To date, we have provided high quality kerbside sort systems in suburban areas and poor quality or even no recycling for many households in flats and tenements,” he said.

“In the flats and tenements this [commingled] service will be provided on the basis that wherever there is a refuse bin there will also be a recycling container and a food waste container, just as there is in the suburban parts of the city.”

Lawrence said the space needed for a seven bin system (five recycling, one food waste and one for residual waste) to permit source segregated collections was not available in Aberdeen.

The council was aware of the obligation of achieving high quality recycling. For this reason it was funding a material recycling facility (MRF) in Altens, expected to be operational in late 2016.

Lawrence said glass was that the only material the council was concerned about. “We see this as a commercial rather than technological challenge,” he added.

He pointed out colour sorting had advanced significantly over the last five years but plants with the technology operated at a scale larger than the likely production from Aberdeen’s MRF.

“As a result, we are looking at working with partners in this market who have these facilities in place, while we look at the ways to be able to develop smaller scale colour sorting systems.

“In essence, we believe the solution here is one of innovation and technological development rather than prescriptive practices that prevent us from providing high quality services to all our householders.”

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