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Never neglect the drive for quality materials

Robin Latchem

There has always been the refrain that if a business involved in recycling/reprocessing was focused sufficiently on quality, it would be OK.

I have been out of MRW Towers recently to visit facilities and attend conferences where the quality of material has never been far from peoples’ minds, and it is clear – to me at least – that this depends on more than just the determination of certain operators to do the right thing.

The furthest I travelled was to the UPM paper mill at Shotton where, six years ago, the company installed a MRF to help ensure the recovered paper it was using was a high quality. It means it sorts its cans, plastics and glass to the same high standard – and the result is crystal clear when they are all baled up at the end of the process. And not just to my untrained eye: a plastics reprocessor told me the next day he loved taking UPM’s HDPE bales because there was so little unwanted material.

That conversation came at the Resource Association’s annual lecture, which also featured the organisation’s first ‘quality awards’ – with members nominating partners in their supply chain who delivered uncontaminate material, often for many years even in the face of a volatile secondary materials market.

2000 coca cola ad2

2000 coca cola ad2

The day after that, Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP) unveiled an entertaining animated advert to an invited audience which will shortly be shown on TV, in cinemas and through social media to encourage greater recycling of Coca-Cola bottles.

That ties in with the company’s commitment to using 50% recycled PET in bottles from 2020 (25% currently). Its processing partner Clean Tech needs more good-quality rPET while Nick Brown, CCEP’s head of sustainability, made a strong call to Government for an overhaul of the producer responsibility schemes to help the sector.

On my travels, I heard new environment secretary Michael Gove’s speech to the Green Alliance at first hand – all agriculture and no crumbs for waste managers.

Afterwards, Suez chief executive David Palmer-Jones bent the Gove ear on the need for more infrastructure and – in keeping with my theme here – action on extended producer responsibility. I understand Gove asked whether that meant regulation and he was told it most certainly did.

But unless Gove overcomes his longstanding hostility to regulation, a consensus could be some way off.

STOP PRESS - no sooner had I written this than China announced a ban on imported plastic grades, unsorted paper and other materials. The message is: if the quality is poor, you haven’t a chance with your exports there. More at:


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