Greenstar UK chief executive Ian Wakelin has called for more co-mingled collections, arguing that the wider use of such schemes could “dramatically improve” the UK’s recycling record.

Speaking at a media briefing in London recently, Wakelin argued that co-mingled collections are simpler to use than kerbside sort schemes, and encourage higher participation levels among householders and businesses. He also said they are easier and safer to operate, produce greater recovery rates for recyclables, and are as cost-effective as alternative methods.

“Used in the right place and in the right way, at home or in the workplace, co-mingling could dramatically improve the country’s recycling record,” Wakelin said.

He added that he was frustrated by “strident and often misleading” arguments voiced by critics of co-mingled collections, such as the Campaign for Real Recycling.

“They are wasting valuable energy and public goodwill fighting a losing battle. They should accept that co-mingled collections are here to stay as part of the recycling landscape.”

Critics argue that co-mingled collections tend to be more contaminated, and that inefficient MRF processing leads to lower output quality – resulting in higher rejection rates by reprocessors. But Wakelin counters that modern, properly run MRFs can produce co-mingled recyclates whose quality matches that produced from kerbside-sorted materials.

He went on to point out that some high-tech MRFs hit recovery rates of 96% or more. “Our new super MRF at Aldridge processes materials whether they are co-mingled or source-separated – and to the same high standards.”

Nearly 150 English local authorities currently collect one or more co-mingled materials – typically dry recyclables like paper, cardboard and plastic, metal and glass containers. These can be single stream collections (all in one wheeled bin) or dual stream, where paper is usually collected separately from containers.

Wakelin said that both co-mingled and kerbside sort systems have their place in the recycling chain and that the decision should be tailored to the individual requirements, geography and density of local authority areas. “It’s about horses for courses as kerbside-segregated collection may not be best for high-population zones where space is tight and access roads jammed.”

According to the Greenstar chief, co-mingled collections can increase household recycling volumes by over 15% while some of the company’s commercial customers have seen rates rocket by 45%.

Maxine Perella is editor of LAWR

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