There’s nothing like a live TV quiz to focus the mind. That’s how it felt sitting on the BBC Breakfast Red Sofa, first thing Saturday morning, giving a definitive answer on whether exhibit A or exhibit B could be recycled.
The problem was (and still is) that giving a definitive answer is quite often impossible. But it’s what the recycling public want and need.
While some things can be recycled in one area, they’re not in another. And there are other items that technologically can be recycled, but due to collections infrastructure and/or lack of market they are not. We understand this. We’ve worked with it for years. But you can see why those not involved get confused with the resulting mixed messages.
To a degree, this is a problem of our own making. In our (understandably, target driven) desire to recycle more and more materials, we’ve ended up with a piecemeal approach. On the face of it, we’ve been meeting the targets. But at what price?
The result is that you can ask one reprocessor whether a greasy pizza box should go in the recycling bin and they’ll say yes. While another will say no. The same goes for window envelopes. And grade 5 plastic packaging. Plastic film …. And on and on and on.
Apart from used kitchen roll. On that we’re clear. I think.
Whatever else National Sword has done, it’s brought to a head the fact that successful markets for recovered commodities are based on quality. Recycling is not about the quantity diverted. It’s about the quantity used in new manufacturing.
And the ambiguity that we’ve lived with for so long is killing quality. So, it’s time for reprocessors to stand together and help local and national government (and the public) by providing a clear, unequivocal list of what we want to collect and reprocess and what is in fact garbage.
That way, the garbage can be redesigned for recycling, while we collect and set the quality on its way to re-manufacture.
To do this, we need to sit together and iron out the ambiguities. We’re happy to take a lead. Email us today with your thoughts. Or join us at our Quality First Conference in London on 17 April and talk to us directly. But if you haven’t yet booked your ticket, do it quickly as there are only a handful left.