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MRF sampling: the view from Suez

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

Readers' comments (2)

  • Wise words from David. It's very early days and the priority must be to get coverage of the data close to 100%. I hope my suspicion that the ones that didn't report have worse results than the ones that did is unfounded but time will tell.

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  • David says: 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).
    John says: Size matters. A substantial proportion of "recyclable material" is too small to be effectively and economically recovered by existing plant and is best sent to RDF. This needs to be acknowledged. Too Much incoming material is "inappropriate" or is not recyclable and it is a miracle that any plant can effectively sort it! Independent verification has confirmed this.

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