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Sorting at source

According to the Department of Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra), each year we generate approximately 280 million tonnes of waste. Disposing of this waste is a major issue for the Government, local authorities and industries across the country.Getting bins emptied every week to fill a hole in the ground is a costly exercise.

Mixed waste streams (including food, paper, liquids, glass and plastics) cost the most to deal with after collection as they have to be sorted. Landfill gate fees vary across regions and by waste type, but are typically between £11 and £55 a tonne according to WRAP’s Annual Gate Fees Report published last year. Then there is landfill tax to pay on top (set in 2011 to £56/tonne for active waste), bringing the cost of dumping mixed waste anywhere from around £70 up to £110/tonne.

But as if this financial pressure wasn’t enough, from 1 January 2015 under the Waste Regulations 2011, waste collectors must take practical measures to ensure separate collection of paper, metal, plastic and glass prior to it leaving site. Waste producers should consider measures they might need to take to ensure their waste can be collected separately, and that may mean looking at alternative recycling products such as bins.

So a key way of reducing general waste is the proper sorting of material. To prove the point, authorities across Europe encourage more sorting at source, making it easier to separate out recyclable materials such as glass, plastics and cardboard from general waste. While 55% of municipal waste generated in the UK is sent to landfill, in EU-27 countries just 40% is sent to landfill according to Defra’s key facts and figures for waste and recycling.

Innovative bin systems can help make segregation of waste easy to manage despite the disparate nature of waste generated by different types of industry. There are bespoke solutions for virtually all types of material whether it be food; packaging; plastic or paper. In the office environment, even with coffee cups - their lids, and excess liquids obviously requiring different treatment – can all be disposed of cleanly, in special units with discrete compartments for each part.

Research by the Waste and Resource Action Programme  (WRAP) shows that more than a quarter of companies operating a recycling at work scheme cite saving space as a motivating factor in starting recycling programmes. There are lots of efficient systems, designed for use under counters or desks that can reduce these pressures.

Where offices have high traffic areas, systems with clear, identifiable legends to show which waste goes where works best - people don’t want to have to think too hard about where to dump their cola cans, newspapers or paperwork. Using higher capacity bins mean that they are less likely to fill up between collections, which can help reduce unsightly litter. Colour coded systems on bins further aid disposal.

For confidential waste, secure bins with lockable tops ensure shredded sensitive paper waste is recycled without compromising the company, as long as you work with your recycling service provider to ensure end-to-end security.

The Government is working with businesses to increase the use of recycled content in packaging as well as to make it more recyclable and Wrap offers waste management advice for specific sectors such as hospitality, construction, farming, and the retail supply chain.  

With the right investment in the right services and products at all levels in the chain – from manufacture, consumption,  recovery and recycling – a larger reduction will be made in the amount of waste sent to landfill every year.  Costs will be reduced and environmental damage can be lessened.

Peter Vernon is managing director of Alpha Waste Solutions

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