As the country works towards being a zero-waste nation, technologies have developed to recycle and recover a vast range of waste materials. Gone are the days of recycling just glass bottles and paper at your local tip – now there are operating facilities that can recover just about everything, including hazardous household waste such as weed killer, paint and pesticides.
This is fantastic and will help to meet Europe’s targets of reducing the amount of waste sent to landfill. Whilst the market for many of these recovered materials is either immature or non-existent, the market for recovered metals is extremely boyant. This has made it possible to achieve recovery targets of 95% for end of life vehicles (ELVs) and 65% for waste, electronic and electrical equipment (WEEE) - achieved at virtually no public expense, as local authorities sell collected metal waste to a recycler for processing.
However, the metal recycling sector does need support to ensure it has a sufficient infrastructure. As part of the BMRA’s Agenda for Change programme, we are working with the new Government to introduce new capacity building measures and incentives.
Firstly the planning system needs to be changed so there is adequate provision for metal recycling facilities - where they are needed. Currently traditional scrap metal sites located in urban areas are being engulfed by new housing. As a result operators are abandoning their sites as new residents complain about the appearance and sound of a metal recycling operation ‘in their back yard’.
Energy from Waste (EfW) is now an accepted way of recovering value and diverting domestic waste from landfill. What now needs to be addressed is the capacity for EfW to handle commercial and industrial waste reside after valuable materials have been recovered.
This is relevant to the metals recycling sector where advances in shredder techniques and post-shredder technology have resulted in high levels of metal, plastic and glass recovery. However the residue, ‘fluff’, still remains and the industry needs government support to ensure EfW is capable of recovering energy from this material as well.
UK metals recyclers are at the forefront of investing in and developing waste recovery technologies. A tax relief scheme to offset private investment in residual recovery would provide an incentive for recyclers to develop them further.
Provided the Government supports the industry’s development by reviewing regulation and policy, metals recyclers could make an even bigger contribution to the UK’s low carbon economy, and facilitate business growth and job creation. The BMRA will continue to work at putting these changes in place, and I believe by working with the Government we can make a positive difference for all operators.