Late 2017 saw China announce changes in quality on imported materials in a bid to clean up the countries environment. Imposing a worldwide ban on the import of 24 types of plastic and paper waste has caused many issues for waste management businesses.
The UK recycling industry has previously sent around 494,000 tonnes of plastic and 1.4 million tonnes of recovered paper to China every year. Resulting in China holding a dominant position in global manufacturing and import of recyclable materials for years.
China’s ban comes at a time where the UK and other recycling industries aren’t prepared for the change. With MRW reporting many UK firms ‘likely to go under’ as a result and some traders being unable to find a new market and buyers for mixed paper recycling. Mixed paper is stockpiling in some parts of the UK, however mills are less keen on the material and it poses a fire risk.
This means the UK recycling industry needs to adapt in order to survive. Many waste businesses have found different outlets to send their recycling too, including European markets. The rest is flooding the struggling UK market which can only process less than 40% of the total recycling being collected by businesses.
Why don’t we have more recovery facilities in the UK?
The debate rumbles on as to whether we need to build more energy-from-waste facilities.
The main problem is not a shortage of recovery facilities, but that many of them are not mutually compatible. Many UK recovery facilities were designed to meet specific EU reporting targets that prioritise public and environmental health. The over reliance on Energy from Waste creates an infrastructure that relies on the creation of suitable waste and reduces the incentive for reuse and recycle.
The increase in materials staying in the UK has meant that the waste industry is facing new challenges with mixed recycling, including the DMR bin.
As recovery facilities are suddenly receiving more materials when they are already at capacity, they are becoming ‘pickier’ about what they will accept. Contaminated materials are not being accepted, meaning loads need to be disposed of as general waste. General waste results in either materials being sent to landfill, or sent to be turned into energy – all dependant on the business that is handling the waste.
Recovery facilities are also charging more when they do accept mixed recycling.
As it is costing them more to sort through the baled materials to reduce the contamination, they have begin to charge by the tonne. This change also comes at a time when other countries are paying significantly less for collection, and resale value dropping dramatically over the past year.
The Future of the Dry Mixed Recycling bin
For many years, we have been promoting the use of mixed recycling bins, it was an easy way to recycle and a cheaper alternative to general waste bins. Now that the material in mixed collections is almost worthless, along with other waste businesses, we are noticing the cost of these collections increasing due to the difficulties in disposal and little or no worth to the material.
Whilst we are still accepting Dry Mixed Recycling bins from our current clients, with stricter guidelines, we are no longer promoting this service.
Education is key for the future of the UK Recycling industry. It is the responsibility of waste management companies to ensure their clients are knowledgeable about which material can go in which bin. It is then vital that employers pass this knowledge onto their staff and ensure they’re using waste and recycling efforts effectively.
Education programmes and implementing a range of innovative and promotional campaigns aid in raising awareness of waste issues and also help to encourage waste reduction.
The future of the UK Recycling industry is uncertain. With China’s ban and the UK failing to adapt quick enough, waste management companies are having to make drastic changes in order to still make a profit. The way businesses and households are recycling needs to change and it’s down to waste management businesses to educate, in order to survive.