Environmental charity Waste Watch welcomed the report. A spokesman told MRW: “We fully support WRAP’s stance – we do believe that quality should be the major driver for collection systems. This underlines the importance of taking a holistic view of the product cycle, including the added value of quality recyclate, when assessing the costs of a given collection system. Central Government should encourage the collection of quality recyclate through well-thought out incentive systems. A simple tonnage-based system successfully produced the step change in recycling that we have seen in this country over the last few years, but the emphasis now needs to be on quality, not just quantity.”
The WRAP report stated that “kerbside sort systems which allow contamination to be filtered out at the point of collection gives the most reliable stream of quality materials” and commingled collections face quality problems.
Local Government Association chairman Paul Bettison said that WRAP had made dangerous sweeping statements on commingled collections and that the report did not take into account that “one-size fits all” (see MRW story).
In response to Bettison’s claims, a WRAP spokeswoman said: “WRAP agrees with the comments made by the LGA that there is no one-size-fits-all solution – local authorities are ultimately best placed to make decisions about collection systems. Our report made it clear we were setting out our views on the evidence available to us about the merits of different approaches because we are always being asked what we think. Our conclusion is that from the point of view of material quality, kerbside sort collections are preferable and should be available in most cases as an option for local authorities to choose.”
London Assembly chair Darren Johnson said he agreed with WRAP that one-size did not fit all: “What we need is a standardised system and not a different system for every local authority. But we need a standardised system that is rationalised.”
Hackney Council also responded to the report. Cabinet Member for neighbourhoods Councillor Alan Laing said: “The collection of quality recyclables is a priority for the council. The agreed approach in Hackney is to provide the best and most suitable collection options depending on housing type, which pre-dates and is in line with WRAP recommendation. We use kerbside sort for street-based households. On estates we prefer and use a two-stream approach, where paper is separated from other dry recyclables. Hackney also separates kitchen waste from green waste collection, which is in line with other WRAP recommendation. We are aware of the increasing challenge to provide this service on some of the more congested roads and multiple occupancy properties. However, only where space is limited, for example small blocks, do we use fully commingled collections.'
A Waste Watch spokesman concluded: “All players need to realise that poor quality recycling is everyone’s problem and traditional boundaries of responsibility have to be re-evaluated. Local authorities should look beyond the transfer station to the long-term markets for their recyclate. Reprocessors should take responsibility for their raw material before it reaches them by reaching out to the public and being proactive about helping councils target contamination hotspots with effective communications. They should also think a stage before the consumer and work with designers and manufacturers to increase recyclability of products.”