Albion’s ABC of Waste Management – Q – Quality Recyclate

How good are your recycling habits? Do you understand how your habits can impact the success of whole recycling operations?

Recycling helps to reduce the carbon emitted from creating new things; it is a crucial aspect of sustainable resource use; and if waste materials are recycled, they are less likely to wind up polluting the environment.

However, the waste recycling industry faces a number of issues – for example, right now it is struggling to maintain the resources it requires to keep up with its demands amid the health crisis we are currently facing due to COVID-19.

Additionally, in a typical year (one that is not hugely affected by a global pandemic!), it can be difficult to find a market for recycled end-products. It can also be hard for waste management companies to source high-quality input materials for the recycling process.

The potential lack of good input materials can hamper the quantity and quality of the new raw materials produced by recycling.

Even just a small amount of waste contamination within incoming materials can wipe out the value of the end-product resources.

Waste management can generally be improved with better collection and sorting of recycling waste. Furthermore, awareness on which materials can and cannot be recycled, and which waste streams should be used for various items, could be enhanced, both within industry and in the public sphere.

For instance, here at Albion we recently conducted a waste compositional survey for a local authority, and found high levels of contamination within multiple waste streams.

The council in question provides householders with multiple types of recycling bins (alongside a residual bin), and each of the bins studied contained some level of contamination:

  • Metal and plastic bins – 13% of the waste content should have been placed in a different type of recycling bin and 19% should have been put in the residual waste bin
  • Paper and card bins – 7% of the waste content should have been placed in a different type of recycling bin and 10% should have been put in the residual waste bin
  • Glass bins – 22% of the waste content should have been placed in a different type of recycling bin and 6% should have been put in the residual waste bin
  • Residual bins – 72.3% of the materials could have been recycled.

Clearly, householders are often getting it wrong when using their recycling bins. This offers an opportunity for enhancing waste management, and more specifically, the quality of recyclates. To increase recyclate quality, it is crucial that more focus is given to education on how to dispose of recyclable materials correctly. Organisations using measures to learn exactly what is in their waste stream, and investing time and money into developing innovative ways to efficiently separate their waste on-site, can often benefit from lower disposal costs, and new revenues.

Here at Albion, we have qualified, experience consultants that can conduct waste analyses, and also help provide expert solutions on how a business or council could improve its waste sorting and collection processes, as well as highlighting the materials that ought to be targeted for this. Upon passing over our findings, we can sit down with the relevant teams and assist in the development of an informed, effective strategy for improving quality of recyclates. Find out more about how we can help with waste compositional surveys here.