According to ASDA and Coca Cola Enterprises, some waste contractors are holding up smarter value chain collaboration due to an inherent reluctance to engage.

ASDA’s environment implementation manager Richard Mason said a more “grown up” approach was needed. “We need them to be open and honest, not just defend their contracts,” he urged.

Part of the problem according to CCE’s recycling director Patrick McGuirk is that waste contractors are under pressure to deliver greater tonnages each year, often at the expense of quality.

“I think the challenge is the quality agenda … if we are looking at this from a British perspective, it can be embarrassing,” he said.

“In some sense I feel for waste management companies because they need to satisfy a desire to deliver bigger percentages [of recovered materials] while driving a circular economy … but bigger percentages can work against a circular economy,” he argued.

As an example, McGuirk pointed to his own local authority that introduced a kerbside collection scheme for low grade and mixed plastics – apparently in response to demand from local residents.

Such materials, he said, can have a negative impact downstream at the reprocessing stage – including CCE’s own closed loop PET plastic bottle recycling plant which it operates through a joint venture with Eco Plastics.

“This material can stop production at our plant so fundamentally, for 20 minutes that is stopping the circular economy from happening because these material can’t be recycled in a carbon efficient way.”

There was still confusion in parts of the value chain in terms of piecing together all of these elements, McGuirk added.

Mason said that going forward, greater work around carbon measurement would help inform the quantity versus quality debate of recycled materials.

Mason and McGuirk were both speaking at a 2degrees webinar this week on how businesses are tackling the evolving urban waste challenge.

Maxine Perella

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