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Hierarchy benefits all waste materials

Efforts to drive communities and businesses up the waste hierarchy have to match what is possible and practicable. When I first started a family 30 years ago the only at-home option was landfill. The council took our black bags to the local ‘tip’ and we chose to separate glass and paper and ferry them to banks at the supermarket car park.

Collection these days is much more sophisticated as local authorities and waste management companies offer a range of options for different materials. In terms of the hierarchy, landfill is the past and there is a noisy debate around the efficacy and value of recovery.

A new report from the All-Party Parliamentary Sustainable Resource Group seeks to drive us further up the hierarchy by revisiting its earlier work on remanu­facturing.

In today’s world, this is a challenging concept: linear business models, design issues, intellectual property and international buy-in all hamper the sort of progress that Caterpillar has shown is possible with its profitable Reman division. We have exclusive extracts from the report.

But it would not be right to assert that ‘reman’ should be the only answer, and recycling or recovery is ultimately wrong. It is reasonable to argue that there has been too much emphasis on recycling over the years, particularly in terms of blunt targets, and not enough on waste prevention and reuse.

There are almost certainly situations where reman is not possible, so it is important that our industry ensures the most appropriate level of the hierarchy is used for the maximum benefit at the right time.

Just what is right for household collections is a hugely relevant question because England faces the likelihood of its recycling rate falling next year for the first time this century. Something has to change to kickstart growth that we have not seen for nearly a decade - and change quickly. MRW is reflecting all this with special elements in our next two issues.

For the final issue of the year, we have a detailed look at the launch of the national recycling campaign in 2004, which shook up communities then barely achieving rates in double figures. The first issue of 2015 will reflect a special round table discussion hosted by MRW on how momentum can return in the coming decade. We hope you find them stimulating.

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