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Separate collection call in Brussels Circular Economy debate

A call for the mandatory separate collection of recyclates and the benefits of pay-as-you-throw are among the key recommendations of a report being discussed at a high-level conference on the circular economy in Brussels.

At the centre of the European Commission event was wide-ranging research to assess separate collection schemes in EU capital cities.

There were five conclusions:

  1. Separate collection of fractions leads to higher recycling levels
  2. Involving the private sector in collection and treatment can help reduce costs and reduce the management burden but there can be a lack of transparency
  3. Door-to-door collection systems result in the highest capture rates and yields of recyclables
  4. Strict separate collection (one recyclable in one bin) usually leads to better recycling rates
  5. Pay As You Throw for residual waste within a fee system is one of the main factors for successful separate collections

The report’s recommendations are aimed at national, regional and local authorities. It calls on all member states to have mandatory separate collection systems for certain municipal waste fractions, such as paper and packaging waste, and bio-waste.

It also wants clearer definitions of what is meant by separate collection in national legislation with reference to high quality recycling and treatment standards. It adds that standards of quality and treatment should be introduced and applied.

The recommendation for greater public-private partnerships cautions that budget surpluses might retained by a private company.

“If involving the private sector, minimum collection and treatment standards should be set and a robust reporting system for data on waste collection and treatment should be put in place,” it said.

The report acknowledges that collection costs for door-to-door schemes might be higher but it says capture rates and revenues are usually higher and rejection rates and treatment costs lower.

The authors also argue that the quality of the collected recyclates in a strictly separated regime is better and the rejection rate is lower.

They add: “The commingled approach can work but the collected material can only be sorted to produce clean fractions if there is very little unwanted contamination.

“Reducing contamination (sorting mistakes) in the commingled bin is the largest challenge. The trend in recyclate markets is likely to be towards requiring higher quality materials”.

The event agenda

The Environmental Services Association policy advisor on Europe, Roy Hathaway, said:

“As the report states, separate collection of recyclable waste paper, metal, plastic and glass is a legal requirement except where it has been shown not to be technically, economically or environmentally practicable (TEEP), or where it is not necessary to ensure waste is recovered. So far as household waste is concerned, it is for local authorities to decide how best to meet this legal requirement in their respective areas, taking account of all relevant local circumstances and the overall objective of increasing the quantity and quality of materials recycled. ESA member companies will continue to work with local authorities to deliver recycling services tailored to local needs.”

 

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