Quality First report launched at RWM

The Recycling Association strengthened its call for quality recycling with the launch of its Quality First policy document at RWM in Birmingham yesterday (12 September).

The report, titled ‘Why Quality Must Come First’ puts forward the message that providing quality materials for recycling is more ‘vital’ than ever, and suggests actions and recommendations that the Association says ‘need to be taken up’ to improve material quality.

Above: Simon Ellin talks to Beth Slow about the Recycling Association’s Quality First policy document at RWM

The Association says that since the launch of its Quality First Campaign in September 2016, ‘huge strides’ have been made in promoting quality recycling.

The report notes that government, retailers, manufacturers and local authorities have started to think more about quality, with some beginning to make positive changes.


But, it argues that developments over the last year – and in particular a clampdown on quality by China, the largest export market for UK recovered materials – mean that further action is needed to ensure the UK can meet the standards required. The Association warns if nothing is done, it could result in a situation where people could be restricted in their ability to recycle materials such as paper and plastics.

Simon Ellin, Recycling Association chief executive, comments: “The reality is that China is by far our biggest export destination, and UK and European recyclers don’t, and never will, have the capacity to take all the material we generate, as much of it is manufactured in China in the first place.

“Therefore it is vital that the UK becomes an exporter of premium quality recycled material to ensure the Chinese market remains open to us. Plus, the added benefit is that UK and European recyclers want quality material too.

“This report suggests actions and recommendations that need to be taken to improve the quality of UK materials available for recycling. I urge every stakeholder involved in the supply chair to do their bit to improve quality.”


One of the barriers to improving quality, according to the Recycling Association, is that packaging has not always been designed with recycling in mind. Therefore, the association urges UK government to implement the EU Circular Economy Package despite Brexit and introduce new regulations as a matter of urgency on packaging design. It also calls for the government to investigate ways to extend producer responsibility.

Other points put forward in the report include creating a ‘unified approach’ to quality with more engagement throughout the supply chair; encouraging producers to fund communications campaigns that promote quality recycling; increased funding to crack down on illegal exporters and more clarity on export guidance; and, the Association is seeking new partnerships to maximise the importance of the quality message.

Launched in September 2016, the Quality First Campaign was created by the Recycling Association to raise awareness of the need for the UK to improve the quality of its recyclable materials. The campaign is backed by many UK domestic recyclers, material exporters and the Chinese inspection agency CCIC London.

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