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Data is vital – as long as it’s of quality

Rick Hindley

At the time of writing, publica­tion of the resources and waste strategy is imminent and expectations are high. It is a rare opportunity for ministers to shape a ‘whole system’ approach that will deliver Defra’s 25-year plan, the EU’s circular economy (CE) pack­age and the aspiration for the UK to be recognised as a champion of sustainability.

But the current producer responsibility system must be overhauled if the UK is to achieve future recycling tar­gets and move towards a truly circular economy.

Data shows that 92% of the aluminium packaging col­lected for recycling in the UK is recycled within Europe. This shows that there is more than enough capacity within the EU to recycle the aluminium pack­aging recovered for recycling in the UK. Indeed, today there is more than enough capacity to recycle all the aluminium packaging sold within the UK.

One of the key CE package’s extended producer responsi­bility (EPR) requirements is for the packaging supply chain to cover a minimum of 85% of the cost of collecting packag­ing materials for recycling.

Aluminium is one of the few materials whose value more than covers the cost of collec­tion and sorting, so we are committed to ensure this is recognised in the new EPR system. Good quality collec­tion data will be essential to ensure that the requirements can be delivered in a fair and equitable way for producers and local authorities.

Alupro recently commis­sioned an independent review into the quality of data pro­vided by local authorities. It highlighted that data from WasteDataFlow and the sam­pling procedures outlined in the MRF Code of Conduct, used by the Environment Agency and WRAP, is not nec­essarily sufficient for observing changes in individual material streams.

While the research enabled us to recommend the sampling size/frequency required to monitor the impact of cam­paigns, councils will face financial barriers when trying to deliver this level of data because of the additional sam­pling required beyond the standards of the MRF Code.

The inconsistencies in and quality of data reporting are a real concern which will need to be addressed if producers are expected to cover the costs of collection. Producers will need to know that their money is delivering increases in recy­cling and improving quality.

We are not convinced that the current sampling and reporting regimes will be able to deliver the quality of data that is reasonably expected.

Rick Hindley is executive director at Alupro

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