The resilience of the UK recycling industry should be considered as a matter of urgency by the new government after the May general election, a leading local authority resources partnership has said.
The Kent Resource Partnership (KRP), the council body representing the 13 local authorities across Kent, raised its concerns over the future of the recycling sector in the UK following the collapse of Aylesford Newsprint this week.
Aylesford entered administration on Tuesday (February 24), a process which lead to the closure of its Kent paper mill which took an estimated 500,000 tonnes of recycled waste fibre from waste management and local authority sources each year.
Finance and tax firm KPMG attributed the firm’s difficulties to ‘significant overcapacity’ in the market and the rise of digital media.
In a statement published in the wake of Monday’s news Kent Resource Partnership expressed its shock at the closure of the Aylesford Mill, which has impacted collections of paper from several Kent councils.
The organisation said: “The events this week of Aylesford Newsprint entering administration came as a shock. Our first thoughts are with the 300 employees and families whose livelihoods are impacted devastatingly, including the 233 employees who have been made redundant with immediate effect. Everything must be done to support the 300 families at this time of shock for them, and in the aftermath, from local and national perspectives.
“Several Kent councils had deliveries of paper to Aylesford Newsprint. Impacted councils are currently implementing urgent arrangements to ensure paper collected from Kent households continues to be recycled.
“Aylesford Newsprint has been a well-established Kent business for many decades. Indeed, it was in the business of recycling long before the country as a whole adopted recycling as a day-to-day norm. The company was a major employer and the impacts on the local economy are significant.”
Kent Resource Partnership also expressed concern at what it described as a ‘developing national trend’ with recycling businesses coming under increasing pressure across the material chain.
It added: “Several materials recycled across the UK appear to have been impacted recently including the four prescribed in EU and national legislation – paper, plastic, glass and metal. Whilst there seems to be a wide range of pressures on each material stream which need to be better understood, the common goal must surely be to ensure that recyclates collected by councils have outlets to be recycled.
“Without a thriving UK recycling industry the KRP believes local economic growth and jobs may be at risk, especially in communities across the country hosting major recycling facilities such as those at Aylesford. In addition, achieving the national recycling target of 50% by 2020 would seem to be more within reach with a thriving UK recycling industry than would otherwise be the case.”
The KRP has also urged that any new government formed after the May general election should take guidance on pressures affecting the recycling industry and measures it can take to seek to strengthen the resilience of the sector.
It has called for bodies including the Advisory Committee on Packaging (ACP), the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP), the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM), the Environmental Services Association (ESA) and Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (LARAC) to take a leading role in driving this agenda.
Speaking to letsrecycle.com today Marcus Gover director at WRAP backed the call for a wider discussion around the resilience of the recycling market.
He said: “When WRAP started we were thinking about new markets because it was about driving growth and maybe we need to turn to that again.
“There is a space for getting people together to see what we need to do and that is something WRAP would be happy to be involved in. It is not just about what can government do, but what can local authorities, what can waste management companies and what can reprocessors do?
“I intend to talk to the Resource Association and with local authorities on this matter.”