Incineration must be challenged to avoid 'environmental vandalism'
The waste industry is at risk of "walking blindly" into a "resource wasting trap" by relying too much on incineration as a disposal option, a leading authority has warned.
Speaking today (July 9) at the Resource Association conference in London, DS Smith Recycling's european sales & purchasing director Jim Malone said that growing volumes of low quality recyclate and a lack of willingness to change collection processes are being used to justify the burning of more material.
"If we, as an industry and as a nation, walk blindly towards accepting incineration as a solution for the volumes of badly sorted recyclate rather than challenge our existing collection and sorting models then I consider this a form of environmental vandalism," he told delegates.
"I passionately believe this is the wrong path and we must not walk blindfold into a new resource wasting trap."
Recognising that incineration may have its place in a comprehensive waste strategy, Malone cautioned that this should not be overplayed or be allowed to mask poor recycling practices.
"We should be mindful of where it sits in the hierarchy and continue to work closely with consumer and commercial and industrial supply chains," he advised.
"The aim should always be to maximise waste minimisation opportunities while looking at the best ways of recovering a quality recycling product to deliver to reprocessors."
Malone also highlighted the need for quality - he said his biggest challenge was finding clean sources of material to feed paper mills.
"Customers of paper mills demand a high quality product and measure that quality in parts per million, while I'm expected to consider input material that has between 1% and 8% rejects.
"No other manufacturer would be expected to accept that level of rejects in their raw materials, so why should paper makers or any other material reprocessor?" he questioned.
The long-running debate between source-segregated and commingled collection methods was fundamentally resulting in a trade off between high quality and the low cost, he noted.
"In many cases the low cost option wins without full recognition of the real downstream costs and environmental consequences of that decision," he said.