The new MRF sampling data should be taken with a pinch of salt, since it only represents the first quarter under the new sampling regime, which will inevitably take some time to be delivered consistently across the industry.
While some of the initial data is interesting, we estimate that it will require at least 18 months of consistent input before this body of information paints a true picture of MRF input and output quality across England and Wales.
However, at this stage, we do have concerns that only 90 MRFs have notified the regulator and submitted data. This, we believe, is just over half of the facilities which could, and should, be required to participate.
The data cannot provide a true reflection of recycling quality across England and Wales until the regulator can be satisfied that all who should be participating are doing so.
Furthermore, looking at the data, it seems clear to us that there is still some work to do to ensure that all operators are taking a consistent approach to the application of terminology for “non-target” and “contamination” because this can, and will, skew results.
In our view, contamination should be any material that cannot be classified as dry recyclate, rather than any material that can be theoretically recycled in alternative facilities (ie food waste).
These issues aside, we welcome the first report and believe that, in time, this dataset will provide not only a useful management tool for MRF operators but also provide municipal and commercial suppliers with a clear, objective understanding of the quality of their input material, which in turn will help to drive quality further.
David Palmer-Jones is chief executive of the UK division of Suez Environnement