Quality First is a campaign, created by The Recycling Association, to raise awareness of the need for the UK to improve the quality of its recyclable materials.
If quality is not improved, the UK faces the possibility of declining markets for its materials - both here in the UK and globally. That would mean less UK jobs and could also lead to stockpiles of waste that would need to be landfilled or incinerated.
Why is quality an issue?
The recycling sector is maturing. Key material markets are changing and placing a much greater focus on quality. In a global market, they have more supplier choice and are pulling back from those that do not reliably supply a quality product.
Why is the export market important?
Quite simply, the UK does not have the capacity to use all of the material that we are able to recover. There is, however, global demand from Europe, China, India, Malaysia and Vietnam. As many of the materials and products recycled in the UK are manufactured in these countries it makes sense that we export recycled material for reuse rather than send it to landfill or incineration.
Effectively, by exporting our waste paper, plastics and metals, we are sending them back to the place they were first manufactured to be made into new products once again. It also means that these materials are being transported on ships that would otherwise be returning empty, representing a sustainable transport solution.
This is an example of the circular economy in action.
What about the UK recycling sector?
There is a thriving recycling industry in the UK. Just as with the export market, those that buy recovered materials want to buy a quality product that is fit for purpose. It should not be contaminated with other materials, food or sanitary waste products.
Who is responsible for making sure we provide good quality material for recycling?
Everyone. It is everyone’s responsibility to ensure the quality of material is good for trade, from the manufacturer and the retailer, to the householder, the local authority, the waste collection businesses, the recyclers, the exporters, the shippers and even the buyers of the material.
This full supply chain needs to work together to:
- Address barriers to delivering improved quality materials
- Improve the quality of material recovered in the UK
- Better understand global markets
How will Quality First drive change?
The Quality First campaign is backed by many UK domestic recyclers, material exporters and the Chinese inspection agency CCIC London. It has has six key objectives.
- Campaign to eliminate the deliberate trade of sub-standard and illegal-quality materials for reprocessing
- Highlight positive UK recycling to increase awareness of what is achievable and what should be the norm
- Raise awareness of the importance of material quality
- Educate the supply chain on its part in improving material quality
- Act as a hub and facilitator, working with regulators worldwide to improve quality
- Promote understanding of and lobby for acceptance of 1.5% maximum out throw for paper (as detailed in EN643 and accepted in China and throughout Europe) across the UK (with other material standards to follow)
Our supporters include: ACN Europe, Mark Lyndon Paper Enterprises, Cycle Link, CCIC London.
Join the Quality First campaign
If you would like to be a supporter of Quality First, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will get back