Let's have less commingling and more genuine recycling
A RECENT Tonight programme on ITV raised serious concerns about the mixed recycling or commingling system that many local authorities use to collect their recycling. It made an explicit link between co-mingled collections (crushing recyclable material
A RECENT 'Tonight' programme on ITV raised serious concerns about the mixed recycling or commingling system that many local authorities use to collect their recycling.
It made an explicit link between co-mingled collections (crushing recyclable material in the back of a dustcart) and the material being dumped in a field in India.
The problem is that the crushing process makes it virtually impossible to separate the recycled materials later. It becomes a case of rubbish in - rubbish out.
In North London no British papermaker will accept paper that has gone through our commingled collection because it ends up too contaminated with glass fragments to turn it into recycled paper.
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As a result, we pay for it to be shipped abroad. It may be that technology is better in Malaysia and China, but it's more likely that the contaminated paper is not being turned into recycled paper at all. If we want to give reprocessers materials they can turn into new products, then we have to give them better quality recycling and that means moving away from commingling.
Commingling is also a disaster for the environment in terms of greenhouse gases. Camden Council recently published an energy audit of its recycling which proved that commingling was extremely environmentally unfriendly.
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That's because huge amounts of energy are spent trying to separate the commingled recycling at a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) in Greenwich. So glass that goes through this system ends up creating more of a problem for the environment in terms of carbon emissions than if dumped in landfill.
Councils commingle because they think it's the cheapest way to collect recycling. They also have no statutory responsibility to consider the environmental impacts of recycling - only to collect as much of it as possible at the lowest possible cost.
We would encourage all residents concerned about what is happening to their recycling to ask their councillors where it is going. We would also encourage concerned councillors to contact the Campaign for Real Recycling who will give presentations to councils on how commingling is not the cheapest collection system, how it only produces poor quality recycling and, critically, how it is bad for the environment.
Until we can get this sorted out we recommend that everyone who can uses on-street separated recycling bins because the materials in these stay separated. And if there isn't one near you, then get on to your local councillor.
Cllr Alexis Rowell
Camden Eco Champion and
former member of the
North London Waste Authority
Campaign for Real Recycling