Could this new industry framework reinvigorate England’s recycling rates?

England would see a much-needed increase in recycling, an improvement in the quality of recycled materials and a more comprehensive waste management service for households if a new, collaborative industry framework is adopted, WRAP has claimed.

As recycling week moves into its second day, WRAP has today (13 September) released a new report which outlines a potential framework for household recycling, developed by an advisory group of organisations including Green Alliance, British Retail Consortium and the Recycling Association.

The framework incorporates a four-stage recycling system that delivers positive changes to the manufacturing, use and recycling of products in England, where recycling rates have stalled. It is constructed around a collected vision that, by 2025, all packaging will be easily recyclable and clearly labelled to indicate its recyclability.

The framework also suggests a method in which a common set of dry recyclable materials will be collected through a three-part collection system: multi-stream with food; two-stream with food separate; and, co-mingled mixed recyclables with food separate.

In a group statement, the organisations supporting the new framework said: “Our organisations have contributed to the development of this Framework for greater consistency in household recycling in England and have committed to further initiatives to take it forward… We commend it to our sectors, and look forward to working with colleagues to realise the benefits identified.”

Recycling reform

In its new report, titled A framework for greater consistency in household recycling in England – supported by Defra and the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) – WRAP draws upon industry and local authority best practices to construct the framework, which it says could bring vast finical and sustainability benefits for the country.

WRAP’s collaborative framework would offer solutions to a number of existing “recycling barriers” in England, specifically by focusing on reducing consumer confusion, making packaging more recyclable and encouraging the waste sector to work closely with local authorities to collect core materials for recycling.

Up to 11 million tonnes of materials could be diverted from disposal – including eight million tonnes of food waste – if the new framework is adopted. Moreover, five million tonnes of greenhouse gasses could be negated and England’s recycling rate could increase by 7% by the year 2025, WRAP claims.

WRAP’s new chief executive and chair of the advisory group Marcus Gover said: “As an industry we have achieved so much in the last 15 years. A thriving recycling industry has been created and recycling is now a way of life. When Defra asked us to investigate the opportunities for greater consistency, we were delighted to lead this, and to work with representatives from each stage of the recycling supply chain.

“By pooling the wealth of recycling experience from across the sectors, we have developed a vision that offers the opportunity to increase recycling, improve the quality of recycled materials, save money and offer a good service to householders. It is only by joining together that we can now realise the benefits of the vision and I look forward to working with all those involved to do that.” 

Supplier responsibility

Simon Ellin, chief executive of the Recycling Association – a member of the advisory group behind the new framework – added: “As part of the advisory group that worked with WRAP on developing this framework, we believe it will improve quality because, by having a core set of materials that can be recycled in England, people will be able to make better, more informed decisions about which bin to put their materials into.

“But it should also mean that there will be more responsibility throughout the supply chain with local government, the recycling industry, retailers and brands all involved in developing this framework.”

The framework comes just one day after edie reported on two public surveys that highlighted the need for standardisation of both recycling information and packaging, and on the same day that a separate report from waste management firm Suez revealed that more than £9bn could be added to the UK economy if the Government effectively integrates circular economy principles into the country’s emerging industrial strategy.

Waste contamination has fast-become a key factor in driving up household recycling rates, with a recent Freedom of Information (FoI) request from the BBC detailing an increase of 84% recycling contamination over the last four years.

As part of Recycle Week 2016 (12-18 September), WRAP’s consumer campaign, Recycle Now, is attempting to engage a younger audience and inform them about the less obviously recyclable materials found around the house. Included in the campaign is an informative parody film, The Unusual Suspects – a four-part episodic series that builds anticipation for Recycle Week, with the second released today.

Alex Baldwin

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