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Building the ‘recycling society’

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Municipal recycling has increased fivefold since 1997. Members of the Environmental Services Association (ESA), together with councils, have made a generation’s progress in only a decade to raise recycling rates to almost respectable European Union levels.

Britain must recycle more municipal waste to meet future landfill diversion as required by the Landfill Directive. Britain’s prospective redefinition of municipal waste to include more commercial and industrial waste will further increase national diversion targets and the need for recycling infrastructure.

The Waste Framework Directive will impose binding targets on recycling household waste. The likely addition of heavy organic wastes to waste streams specified in Article 11(2)(a) might appear to make compliance easier, but this may be more than offset by talk in Brussels of possible disqualification of as yet unspecified ‘inefficient’ recycling.

This debate will impact on councils’ future collection and recycling systems.

Article 3(15) of the Waste Framework Directive stipulates that recycling must result in a new input (other than backfill, unless the waste is non-hazardous construction and demolition waste) into the economy, so markets are vital.

The ESA has promoted the role of green public procurement.

We developed the independently audited Recycling Registration Service for Material Recovery Facilities (MRF) to help ensure MRF outputs meet the market’s quality requirements. However, we need all local authorities to match the current best standard in promoting recycling to ensure materials received at MRFs are relatively uncontaminated. This makes environmental and financial sense.

Hanging over everything will be the increasingly high profile of carbon reduction as the dominant metric for deciding the best use of waste as a resource.

Our main work in 2009 was to develop what we hope and believe will become a globally recognised carbon metric for our sector.

Over time, this will give more transparency to the huge leaps our sector has already made in cutting carbon emissions and will help to project local authorities and ESA’s members as successful partners in building the ‘recycling society’.

Dirk Hazell, Chief Executive, Environmental Services Association

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