Commingled claims deliver ‘killer blow’ for kerbside sort

A leading reprocessor has backed commingled waste collections, arguing that the economics stack up far better due to the high volumes that can be achieved compared to kerbside sorting.

Chris Dow, CEO of Closed Loop Recycling – a plastic bottles reprocessor – said that commingled methods deliver up to three times as much materials, and that these higher quantities effectively deal a “killer blow” for kerbside sort collections.

“That number, three times as much, is so high that I buy into commingled as a result,” he said.

While acknowledging there was widespread concern within the industry over the contamination risks that come with commingling, Dow said that materials recovery facilities (MRFs) were “capable of rising to the challenge”.

“We need to make it easier for consumers [to recycle],” he added. “There are still 250,000 tonnes of plastic bottles being landfilled in the UK every year – we need to unlock this material.”

Building more uniformity into local authority collection sytems would also help deliver higher participation rates, he said, as well as maximising output value from MRFs.

Dow was speaking at a debate on recycling economics hosted by the Associate Parliamentary Sustainable Resource Group in Westminster earlier this week.

Keeping with theme of plastic bottles, WRAP’s head of closed loop economy Marcus Gover told delegates that “more needs to be done” to extract value from this material stream.

He pointed to the coloured caps on plastic milk bottles as having significant implications for recovery levels.

The colour pigments on these caps can often lead to contamination during reprocessing by staining the bottles.

WRAP has been involved in discussions with major dairy producers to develop new pigments for these caps such as ‘mid-tints’, but rolling out such developments is proving challenging.

“It takes a lot of work to get these colour changes accepted by the consumer,” Gover pointed out.

He added that end-markets for plastics packaging, particularly within the UK, were still immature and needed developing in order to deliver higher returns for reprocessors.

Maxine Perella

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie