Category Archives: Recycling

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.

Albion’s ABC of Waste Management – P – Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP’s)

  • What are persistent organic pollutants (POP’s)?
  • How do the recent changes to the hazardous waste regulations impact you?
  • What are the implications of POP’s in waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE)?
  • What does this mean for the re-use and recycling industry?

Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP’s) are potentially hazardous organic substances which can impact the environment and human health if they escape. Chemical have historically been used in plastic for electrical items due to their flame-retardant properties.

Legal aspect

Many items of WEEE meet the criteria for hazardous waste under the Hazardous Waste Regulations 2005, most common are fluorescent light tubes and cathode ray tubes. Hazardous WEEE should be segregated from general WEEE for specialised collection and treatment.

The Hazardous Waste Regulations were amended 2019 to take into account the revised EU Regulation on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs).  The new legislation sets tougher controls on chemicals historically used as flame retardants as well as other potentially hazardous substances. 

Research carried out by the Industry Council for Electronic Equipment Recycling (ICER) suggested that levels of POPs present in common WEEE plastics are actually higher than previously thought. High bromine levels that could exceed the POPs Directive threshold can be present in the following electronic plastics:

  • Plastic from cathode ray tube (CRT) display units
  • Flat panel displays
  • Small mixed WEEE
  • Fridge compressors

Further to those, tests have been taking place to determine the presence of POPs in cabling.

Issue for the WEEE reuse and recycling industry

The new legislation sets maximum concentration levels for POPs in waste materials to levels that are below what have been commonly used in products in the past.  Many items, in particular Small Mixed WEEE, Cathode Ray Tube TVs and Flat Screen TVs, could contain levels of POPs that effectively render them hazardous.  Most of these items which previously could be reused or recycled must now be incinerated. 

Implications to the WEEE reuse and recycling industry

We are waiting for guidance from SEPA around this.

The legislation will result in a need for greater sorting and separation of what is now deemed potentially hazardous plastic derived from WEEE.

In practice, the new legislation means that some plastics from WEEE which would previously have been recycled, will now be destroyed by incineration (or potentially other high temperature processes like a cement kiln). Bromine separation technologies may be used to separate these POP containing plastics from other plastics and wastes. The latter may then be suitable for recycling.

It is anticipated that this could add significant cost to the treatment of waste electrical and electronic equipment, as hazardous waste materials are subject to greater regulatory controls than non-hazardous waste and due to more limited treatment options.

Recycling industry

Recyclers of WEEE have highlighted that plastics recycled from the WEEE stream such as computer cases had been in high demand, and they believe that concern about POPs is overstated and would prevent recycling.

Does it make sense to burn plastics which could have an alternative route?

The idea of plastic from the backs of television being seen as hazardous is also worrying exporters of refuse derived fuel. The RDF Industry Group concerns are that this would potentially mean that RDF containing these plastics should be classed as hazardous if the plastics were not covered by the exemption for household WEEE.

An additional concern pointed out by the industry was about the impact on recycling rates with the potential that some target rates may now not be achievable.

Reuse industry

There is still uncertainty on the impact of the POPs Legislation on the reuse industry.

The EA has stated that waste display devices and Small Mixed WEEE cannot cease to be a waste, or be reused, unless it is demonstrated that POPs are not present in a particular device or item of equipment. The reuse industry is expressing their concern as this could bring the reuse market for display and small items of WEEE to a close. 

In addition, it is not clear how this would impact on WEEE reuse at civic amenity sites and charity shops. Although the reuse industry did point out that the risk of spreading POPs is low as it is ‘encapsulated in the plastic’, and can only be released upon waste treatment. This means that reuse of items that may contain POPs would not create any risk of harm as the integrity of the plastic is not compromised during testing and repair.

How can Albion help?

This will impact businesses including;

  • Metal recyclers,
  • Recyclers of IT equipment and others accepting WEEE with POPs
  • Local authorities which handle WEEE at recycling centres

Albion can help to assess the implications of this legislation through;

  • Review your activities on the handling of WEEE, licences and/ or permits and cross check against the POPs legislation
  • Identify areas of non-compliance
  • Review your data and estimate potential impact on recycling rates (in case of LAs)
  • Estimate potential impact on costs based on required method of disposal to meet regulations
  • Identify options for management and classification of materials.

Albions ABC of Waste Management – M Materials Recovery Facility

Are you aware of your obligations under the Waste (Recyclate Quality) (Scotland) Regulations 2015?  Albion’s Waste Compositional Analysis team have been providing bespoke training support and ad-hoc expert advice on the requirements for waste sampling and data provision.

A Material Recovery Facility (MRF) is a facility where collected commercial and or household recyclable waste is sorted into different material types. The so called ‘Dirty’ MRFs are those which only accept and sort residual waste.

  • Are you aware of your obligations under the Waste (Recyclate Quality) (Scotland) Regulations 2015?
  • Do you know what data should be reported?
  • Are you aware of the sampling protocol that should be followed?

Since 2015, the sampling and testing at MRFs are covered by two main statutory documents:

  • the Code of Practice on Sampling and Reporting at Materials Recovery Facilities – it aims to improve the quality of output materials by developing standardised testing processes and reporting mechanisms for all input and output materials
  • the Collection and Reporting of Material Recovery Facilities (MRF) Data guidance – it aims to assist operators in complying with the Code of Practice data form. The data reporting is a requirement as set out in the Waste (Recyclate Quality) (Scotland) Regulations 2015 and the associated statutory Code of Practice on Sampling and Reporting at Materials Recovery Facilities.


Both statutory documents above apply to those facilities who hold a licence or permit and that receive/ are likely to receive 1,000 tonnes or more of mixed dry recyclable materials (comprising of two or more materials) or separately collected dry recyclable waste for sorting, over a 12-month period.

Examples of facilities excluded from the Code:

  • Household Waste Recycling Centres (Civic Amenity Sites)
  • MRFs receiving and sorting residual waste only (‘Dirty’ MRFs)
  • Waste Transfer Stations acting only as bulking point (with no sorting activities)
  • WEEE management facilities
  • RDF production facilities
  • MBTs – unless mixed dry recyclable waste is accepted for any MRF operations that form part of the process

Brief on Requirements

The Code of Practice sets out the requirements for sampling, including weight, frequency, reporting periods, measurement and materials to be sampled, and the information to be recorded and reported to SEPA. It requires that MRFs identify materials in relation to what is defined as:

  • Target Material – A material that is specifically targeted by the MRF licence or permit holder as destined to be separated out from other material to facilitate its recycling.
  • Non-target Material – A material that is capable of being recycled but is not a target material for the MRF.
  • Non-Recyclable Material – Waste material that is not capable of being recycled.

Target material that is found in a sample must, as a minimum, be separately identified in the following types:

  • Glass
  • Paper
  • Cardboard
  • Metal
  • Plastic

How we can help

Albion is an experienced training organisation and delivers a wide range of training for organisations across the UK.

Albion’s Waste Compositional Analysis team have been providing training support and ad-hoc expert advice on the requirements based on the MRF statutory documents.

We delivered MRF sampling training programme on behalf of Zero Waste Scotland (ZWS) across all MRF operations in Scotland. We have received approval, from ZWS to use this training material (which is still current and relevant).

Training support can be tailored for each facility’s needs and activities. In general, the approach we have used with clients include the following:

  • Session 1 (Half Day Theory) – This session will work through the Code of Practice and is relevant for Directors, Managers, Supervisors and also the staff that carry out the quality sampling.
  • Session 2 (Full Day Practical) – Deliver one day practical sampling and sorting session for a minimum of 3 staff (max. to be agreed) at your facility, using your equipment.
  • Site Specific MRF Sampling Plan – Using information provided for the training we will provide a Site Specific MRF Sampling Plan for your facility, which can then be integrated into your company procedures.
  • We can also assist with undertaking waste compositional analysis surveys in accordance with relevant guidance.

To find out more or to have an informal chat please contact Jane Bond

Albion’s ABC of Waste Management – K KERBSIDE COLLECTION

Are You Helping or Hindering Scotland’s Recycling? How can this be improved?

  • Currently the contamination rate in the Household waste recycling streams ranges from 0.91% to 43.04%*
  • The average contamination rate for Scotland’s recycling is 17%

*These figures, provided by SEPA, do not include waste that was so badly contaminated it does not make it to the recycling facility and instead is sent to energy from waste facilities or landfill.

Contamination in the recyclate waste streams is currently plaguing Scotland’s recycling efforts.  Plastic is the main problem with people finding it difficult to determine which plastics are recyclable due to the range of plastic polymers and differences between recycling schemes. The BBC have estimated that incorrect recycling/disposal of plastics alone costs Scottish councils about eleven million pounds per year.

Kerbside collection of recyclable material generates income for local authorities. The better quality produced; the higher price councils will receive. If household residents do not separate the recyclable materials, or put the wrong items in the recycling bin, then the whole vehicle load of recycling may be contaminated and sent to landfill or incineration. As a result, the council will not receive revenue for the material and they will also pay the landfill cost.

Is Scotland Reaching its Domestic Recycling Targets?

  • Currently only 44% of domestic waste is put in the recycling bins
  • Scotland is working towards a 70% recycling target by 2025

It is clear that Scotland needs to increase both the quality and quantity of its domestic recyclate. How can this gap be narrowed? Education in the benefits of improving the quality of recycling is required across all councils. A poll conducted by Viridor in Scotland found; 77% of people would recycle more if they could see how the money saved was being invested in public services at a local level. The pending Scottish landfill ban will only increase the importance of achieving this target. When the Scottish landfill ban is implemented in 2025 it will be in councils’ best interest to do everything in their power to increase the recycling rate of their residents in order to keep residual disposal cost to a minimum.

How the Recycling System Should Work.

Most councils recognise the following materials as recyclates and will offer a collection service for; Glass, Plastic, Metal, Paper and Card, Garden Waste and Food Waste. In an attempt to improve recyclate quality and quantity councils are moving away from comingled recycling, thus simplifying the sorting process. The recyclate is collected, separated on a picking line and then bulked to be transported to the end buyer.

*Scottish Environment Protection (SEPA)

Why Should You Recycle?

Financial Benefits– Councils use profits generated to subsidise their costs which can reduce any potential increases in council tax for residents.

Environmental Benefits– Recycling reduces pollution caused from collecting new materials while conserving natural resources.

Social Benefits– Some councils give a percentage of recycling profits as charitable donations and others use savings generated to subsides other local programmes and projects.

What Can Albion Do?

  • Albion can provide councils with a range of services to help improve councils waste management services.
  • We can work with councils to develop waste management strategies to reform waste collection services with the aim of increasing recycling rates while reducing long term operating costs.
  • We can undertake waste analysis via sampling which identifies council’s current contamination rates of both their residual and recyclates, and provides vital information to aid decision making. The results of this analysis can be used to identify areas where improvements can be made.

To find out more or to have an informal chat please contact Jane Bond on 01292 610428.

Albion’s ABC of Waste Management – J JOURNEY (WASTE JOURNEY)

Before something becomes a waste, it is a resource, with some degree of value. That resource can then turn into what is considered to be waste, for a variety of reasons:

  • If a product is only designed for temporary use (for example, single-use plastics)
  • If the inputs into a manufacturing/sales process are not used effectively, or a useless by-product is generated, this leads to wastage (such as left-over scraps of fabric)
  • If something breaks or becomes unusable (for instance, many electronics have short life-spans, and inevitably become waste)

Waste (and recyclable materials) are produced as a part of our daily life. These materials can be produced through manufacture/production of the things we consume and, by us as a result of our individual actions. The legal definition of waste is as follows: “Any substance or object the holder discards, intends to discard or is required to discard.”

Once items are classed as a waste, they must be appropriately managed. Waste typically needs to be transported to a waste management site, and this requires a licensed waste carrier. Sometimes waste will be taken to a waste transfer station, to be sorted, before being transported to its final destination – a waste treatment site. There are multiple options for dealing with waste:

  • Preparing for re-use: one man’s trash is another man’s treasure… if some materials are no longer wanted by the owner, they might be passed on to someone with a use for them (however, this may still be subject to aspects of waste legislation).
  • Recycling: turning waste back into its original product, or a new, useful product. The is most efficient when used to recreate an original product.

Did you know that recycled paper uses around 40% less energy than paper from virgin materials, and every tonne of paper recycled saves around 17 mature trees?

  • Recovery: recovering energy from waste involves incinerating it to generate heat and electricity. This can be ideal for hazardous waste, by eliminating infectious components. However, as the electricity grid decarbonises, this treatment option is less desirable, due to the greenhouse gases emitted.
  • Disposal: this involves incineration without energy recovery, or landfilling waste. Landfills are unfavourable due to the length of time taken for waste to degrade, and because poorly managed sites can cause pollution.

Selecting a waste management option depends on various things, including the ease and economic value of the treatment process and end-products. Another important aspect is any health and safety or environmental risks that may be posed by the waste. Organisations that generate waste have a duty of care to ensure their waste is handled safely, and is transported in compliance with the law. This involves following certain procedures and checks when making arrangements for the waste to be collected. Further controls apply if waste is hazardous.

Overall, it is clear the waste journey can be a large, complicated issue. There are many problems that businesses, organisations, and even households, may consider when dealing with the waste they produce. Ensuring that waste materials are managed effectively is becoming ever more important as we recognise the need to protect resources, finances and the environment at large.

Here at Albion Environmental Ltd, we provide information and resources that enable you to develop a solid understanding of the waste industry, and how this may affect you. We have multiple one or two-day training courses on waste, including Introduction to Waste Management Legislation; Working with Waste Management Legislation; Household Re-cycling Centre Operators Course.

More information can be found here.