5 May 2010
Why is it that depending on where you live, you either have to sort your recycling into matching materials or just pile it all in one bin ready for collection?
Environmental experts from consultancy WYG have been investigating the pros and cons of kerbside sorting, collection of co-mingled materials, and two-stream collection systems.
WYG Environment produced an independent report into this key question, based on their expertise and established history in supporting local authorities on waste collection and disposal matters. The report, available on the WYG website (www.wyg.com/recyclingreview), represents the results of detailed research based on information from local authorities with a strong record in recycling using different systems, and from processors and facility operators.
Len Attrill, WYG Waste Expert and Co-author, said: “We did not aim to say that one system is necessarily better than any other; rather, we wanted to highlight successful kerbside recycling schemes (of any design) and to re-examine some of the arguments made by others regarding co-mingled collections.”
The results dispel some of the myths surrounding co-mingled collections and the independent report provides new insights which add to information already available regarding matters such as cost and diversion. The results do not conclusively prove that one system is better than another: but does show that both have merits and the choice needs to be made on an informed basis taking local factors into account.
David Symmers, chief executive of The Recycling Association, described the research study as ‘a valuable contribution’ to increasing understanding of the pros and cons of different recycling options. “Association members represent those who collect and process recyclables, and they want only one thing,” he commented. “That is accurate and honest information that will help them and their local authority customers to make informed decisions about what is best for their goals.”
Using publicly available data and case study evidence, the research demonstrates that, on average, and taking into account contamination at Material Recovery Facilities, co-mingled collections collect 25% more material for recycling than kerbside sort schemes, and overall performance has the potential to reach 70% diversion of municipal waste from landfill (by weight) where weekly food waste, fortnightly refuse and fortnightly co-mingled recycling schemes are provided.
The research also investigates the issue of contamination and quality of material. Len Attrill added: “Our discussions with UK reprocessors indicated that materials from MRFs are just as acceptable as kerbside sorted materials.”
Commenting on the issue of cost, Len Attrill went on to say: “Our evidence is that single stream co-mingled collection schemes have been shown in some recent procurement exercises to be cheaper than kerbside sort systems; but sometimes the reverse is true.
“Our evidence takes account of the income from material sales associated with the kerbside sort option, as well as the container costs and gate fees associated with co-mingling, and is based upon real experience from competitive tendering situations in the last year.
“We are not asserting that we believe that one system is consistently cheaper than the other. Instead, we have clear evidence that any such generalised statement – in favour of one system or another – is untrue,” he added.