It is a year since the Recycling Association launched its ‘Quality First’ campaign at RWM and, in that year, it has made huge strides.
In Premier League terms, the UK quality-wise has gone from a mid-table team like Stoke to one securing a Europa League place like Southampton or Everton.
Clearly, the message is getting through, and we have seen MRFs operating at a slower speed in order to sort better, we have seen more inspections of material, and investment in technology to create better bales of recyclate.
This is all very positive and a good sign of progress. But the recent news out of China that it intends to ban all scrap plastics and unsorted paper should serve as a warning to the market that we should aspire to be the league champions like Chelsea to ensure that our main export market does not eventually shut its door on recovered paper if the quality is not good enough.
‘Quality First’ has scored quite a few goals during the past year. One of the best was an appearance by me on BBC Breakfast TV, 26 radio interviews and interest across the national print media on difficult-to-recycle packaging such as that for Pringles and Lucozade Sport. It showed a genuine interest out there in this topic, and that people want to recycle but also need clarity on the best way to recycle their packaging.
This should not just be the responsibility of the recycling industry. It should involve all stakeholders – from the people who design the products, through to the manufacturers, retailers, householders, councils and the recycling industry. We have to work together to produce a quality recycled product that can be used within the UK and our key export markets such as China.
Members of the Recycling Association want the next year to be about ‘Quality First’ leading to partnership working with the entire supply chain. That will be our priority to ensure the UK is soon the league champion quality recycler.
Simon Ellin is chief executive at Recycling Association