Is the future of waste collection yet more recycling bins?

Remembering to separate out recyclable materials when putting the bins out is something that can be a bit of a chore, but people seem to be getting used to it. The national UK household recycling rate has risen from 11 per cent in 2000 to 43 per cent, working towards our EU target of 50 per cent. The rate of increase has slowed though, but the pressure from Europe to meet the targets has not.

Last year, Walker Morris reported on some controversial changes to the Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2011. These were made to bring them more in line with the European Waste Framework Directive that all EU countries must comply with. The directive obliges EU member states to promote high-quality recycling and, to this end, set up waste collections where ‘technically, environmentally and economically practicable’ and appropriate to meet relevant recycling quality standards. It goes on to require that by 2015 there should be separate collections for paper, metal, plastic and glass.

So does this mean that, from next January, each household will need four separate recycling bins? Well, not necessarily. The requirement for separate collections only applies where separate collection is necessary to ensure that waste can be recycled to a high quality and is ‘technically, environmentally and economically practicable’ (which is commonly shortened to TEEP by the waste industry). This will depend on how and what types of waste are collected. For instance, if a recycling bin contains only plastic and metal, it should be easy to collect them together (commingled) and separate them out at the recycling plant. If, however, glass and paper can be put in the same bin, it is much more difficult to separate out the glass shards from the paper at the recycling facility…

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