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'Recycling guidelines show we are a long way from national consistency'

Carole Taylor
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Its official – tops are on!

Well, that is what the Waste and Resources Action Programme’s (Wrap) national recycling guidelines say regarding plastic bottles.

Launched at the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee’s conference in October, in partnership with industry stakeholders, the guidelines aim to help householders in the UK understand exactly what can and cannot be recycled.

Wrap hopes the guidelines offer the opportunity for more consistent communications to householders from local authorities, to “help increase recycling, reduce contamination and realise savings”.

The guidelines cover paper, card, mixed paper and card, plastic bottles, mixed plastic packaging, glass containers, metal packaging, cartons and food waste and include:

  • What items can and cannot be collected for recycling
  • Contaminants that are often included.
  • How the materials should be presented eg lids on or off.
  • Reasons why certain items cannot be accepted or should be presented for collection in a certain way

LARAC was one of the stakeholders involved in the development of the guidelines, ensuring local authority views were considered in the process. That local authorities and reprocessors worked constructively to produce these guidelines shows the way forward for increasing recycling levels in the UK. LARAC wants to encourage local authorities to use these guidelines to enhance their communications and give members of the public the consistent messages they say they want.

The guidelines and findings from consumer testing will be included in Wrap’s recycle now resources, with new communications materials for local authorities and others to download and localise.

So will the guidelines offer the consistency that Wrap and LARAC desire?

I work for a waste collection authority whose recycling goes via a materials recovery facility operated by our local waste disposal authority. I have recently checked to see if the guidelines are in line with what the disposal authority wants and already the guidelines have hit a stumbling block. Our materials recovery facility operator prefers the tops off plastic bottles, as the sorters it uses cannot effectively sort plastic bottles where there has been liquid left in the bottle, which likely when tops are left on. To accept bottles with lids on, the materials recovery facility would have to be reconfigured, which is not possible in this financial climate.

I hope this is an isolated example, but if this is the case elsewhere in the UK it shows that, even when we have a large amount of industry buy-in, progress on ensuring consistency in the material supply chain can be slow. There is no doubt that the work from Wrap will help local authorities present a more consistent message to residents across the UK but it also shows that we need changes to other parts of the process to achieve true consistency.

Carole Taylor, vice chair, LARAC and waste services and recycling coordinator, Pendle BC


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