21 January 2021 by Robyn White

MRFs must ‘plan for everything to change’ 

Operators of material recycling facilities (MRFs) should “plan for everything to change” when the deposit return scheme (DRS) is implemented, according to the technical director of Suez.

Mr Hayward-Higham explained how the composition of waste will change with DRS

Stuart Hayward-Higham was speaking at the ‘Modern MRFs – what’s next for material segregating, separation and recycling’ webinar yesterday (20 January), saying that the DRS system will cause a “rapid change” to the design and operation of MRFs and collection systems.

Mr Hayward-Higham explained that there will be an approximate 50% reduction in glass once the DRS is implemented, although there will be a few “leakages” of material which MRFs receive.

He explained: “Roughly 50% or 1.3 million tonnes of glass should come out in the DRS system although there will be some leakage. The DRS system isn’t perfect so some of that will be lost as litter. A lot less glass will mean reduced tonnages going into the front gate and changes to the funding profiles. It will be the same for aluminum and plastics.”

He added that as the DRS will remove the majority of aluminium, glass and plastic beverage containers out the kerbside collections system, MRFs will also begin to see more of other packaging materials such as pots, tubs and trays.


As composition of waste changes, he added there will also be changes to the collection system to adapt to these changes.

Mr Hayward-Higham explained that suburban and rural areas will likely see more source segregated and twin steam collections, while more urban areas will expect more twin steam and less commingled collection systems.

There is also likely to be “significant increases” in materials like cartons, plastic films and flexible packaging.

“There will be quite significant changes in the weight and volume on the belt, and to the process”

Stuart Hayward-Higham, Suez

He added: “There will be quite significant changes in the weight and volume on the belt, and to the process. There are technical pressures in MRFs as those proportions move outside the technical limitations of the plants original design. So there will be changes to the way they operate, and changes to the cost of operations and the efficiency of operation.”

To conclude, Mr Hayward-Higham said that changes that MRFs implement in the next ten months could set a standard for the next ten years and that the “MRF of the future is very different to the MRF of today”.


Mr Bird raised concerns on the impact DRS will have on kerbside collections

Also speaking at the webinar was Andrew Bird, head of recycling and fleet services at Newcastle-under-Lyme borough council, who raised concerns over upcoming legislation and how it will “coexist”.

Mr Bird explained how glass has been the “biggest element” of the council’s dry mixed recycling and added the impact from the DRS and will be “really interesting” to see going forward.

However, he raised concerns from a resident’s behavioural perspective, and whether MRFs will be affected by residents not having the motivation to deposit materials into the system, therefore continue using the kerbside .

Mr Bird continued: “That’s the bit I struggle to get my head around and how many people will continue to use the kerbside scheme, and how those costs will work.

“That will be really tricky and really difficult, and one of those that nobody really knows fully until we are actually doing it.

“DRS will impact on collections and will therefore impact on MRF processing. For me, it’s really about does the system we’ve just started to run allow enough flexibility, with the vehicles we have bought, and the bins we have just put out. Have we got enough flexibility to be able to make sure we have a service that is fit for purpose, post 2023?”


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