OPINION: With the UK government committing to the EU’s Circular Economy Package, the waste management industry has a challenge on its hands. In this article, Ruben Maistry, sales manager at Stadler Engineering, discusses what changes might be needed to meet increased recycling targets.
England’s recycling rates have reached a plateau. With contamination and co-mingling rife, many thought leaders are sceptical about reaching EU recycling targets of 55% by 2025. Others are concerned about our increasing move towards recovery, with the Green party warning we are in danger of incinerating more waste than we recycle.
Conversely, just a couple of hundred miles away, Wales is celebrating the third highest recycling rate in the world – an impressive 64%. In comparison, the UK’s total is 43%. If England is to keep up with other nations, a step-change in how we collect and process our recycling is required.
Wales’ impressive figures are largely a result of a ban on food to landfill and uniformity of recycling collections implemented in response to ambitious local authority targets. The nation’s waste strategy has been so successful in educating householders about the importance of waste segregation, that Conwy Council has reduced general household collections to once a month.
The opportunity for England lies in adopting a similar attitude and approach to waste management as Wales, a nation where major improvements are being heralded. The biggest opportunity lies in an improved collection model.
Commingling is not a long-term solution. It not only reduces recycleate quality, but also increases contamination. To aid recycling efforts, clean, easy to separate, good quality waste materials are needed. Single source recycling collections, uniform across the country, are essential to achieving this, alongside better education for householders as to what can and cannot be recycled.
Another solution lies in developing the many ageing recycling facilities that exist across England and we are starting to see activity in this area. Stadler is working with plants that are making significant investments in recycling efficiency to maximise national capacity, through equipment upgrades. Others are investing in frequent maintenance programmes to ensure that their existing equipment is always operating at maximum capacity. These initiatives are important and will make a significant contribution to enhanced recycling rates. However, investments alone cannot reach the 55% target that Europe is striving towards.
Instead, we need to encourage greater collaboration between industry, government and the general public. If we can prioritise the development and production of easily recyclable packaging, put in place a uniform national collection infrastructure and educate householders about the benefits of best practice waste management, our stagnating recycling rates will quickly begin to climb.
As a global leader in the design, build and installation of sorting systems and components, Stadler Anlagenbau GmbH (and its UK subsidiary) continues to operate at the forefront of the waste management industry. The business has experienced first-hand how legislation has encouraged sector-wide innovation and continues to work with businesses worldwide to maximise recycling rates.