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WYG changes methodology but new report adds fuel to collection debate

Phil Reynolds digs deeper into industry response to WYG’s recent report on waste collection.

Waste consultancy WYG’s follow-up report to its contentious 2010 study has found that of the 13 local authorities with most improved dry recycling rates, 11 had switched to a commingled collection service. But what does this report mean for the collection debate - which was re-ignited earlier this year with news that the Campaign for Real Recycling (CRR) was seeking a judicial review about the inclusion of commingled recycling in the transposed EU Waste Framework Directive?

WYG project director Len Attrill told MRW that this year’s report sought to address some of the criticisms levelled at its predecessor, which was attacked by the CRR as being “somewhat selective” for not consulting any of its stakeholders in the study.

Attrill said: “In the past, we used the methodology of an analysis of numbers, but in some of the areas we tended to then look at particular case studies from projects we had worked on. Some said this report was anecdotal, so we tried to drop those things. We are less reliant on that and more reliant on the facts and analysis.”

He added: “It [the 2011 report] is taking official Government figures and analysing them and looking at other factors within those. For example, some have said in the past that the study was skewed, arguing that wheeled bins collect more because more affluent areas use wheeled bins. We have done some scientific analysis to ask whether that is true. The answer, emphatically, is no that’s not true.”

Biffa Municipal development director Pete Dickson told MRW that it was important for Biffa to continue the partnership with WYG begun by Greenstar in 2010.

“We were concerned about the original WRAP report, which we thought had fundamental issues and was not dealing with certain facts and the data behind it was not published,” he said. “We, as Verdant/Greenstar, thought at the time that there was no point responding to that because we are a MRF operator. WYG agreed to run a report using Government-stated facts and statistics to be open and transparent about the information we were using.

“Through acquisition and joining with Biffa, our two organisations have very similar business strategies. After the first report and the release of Wales’ Eunomia report, we wanted to take a different slant on updated figures to show the public and local authorities what we believe is in fact the best-value service for a local authority.

“We don’t need to be an advocate of commingled - the report speaks for itself.”

Despite the new analysis and updated figures, the CRR has made further criticism. The campaign’s co-ordinator Andy Moore said the WYG report was “clearly not” independent and risked “confusing the [collection] debate”.

He said: “As evidence, it cites WRAP’s recent report that a commingled approach captures more material than source separation. But it does not properly deal with the same report’s finding that the difference is negligible when collection of contaminated or non-target material in commingled collection is taken into consideration.

“This provides the basis for WYG to claim that kerbside sort will incur more landfill costs. Alarmingly, this suggests that commingled collections are not accounting for the disposal of contaminated or non-target materials,” he added. “Councils should not have the wool pulled over their eyes about the value of quality recycling. The WYG report is based on weighbridge data that arrives at MRFs, not weighbridge data of material that arrives at reprocessors for recycling. This report’s selective use of evidence and inference about WRAP’s position appears disingenuous to us.”

Dickson added that he thought the report would now help the collection debate to progress, particularly in terms of the collection frequency debate: “This report shows that collecting commingled recycling in a wheeled bin weekly does not divert significantly more material than fortnightly, so that [model] is suitable for householders to divert maximum material.”

Attrill said: “We have moved from a situation where councils used to have to pay to get rid of dry recyclate in a commingled form to now, when they can sell it as a resource. It has huge implications for local authority budgets and decision making.”

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