Recycling rates across the UK have begun to plateau at around 50 per cent of the waste produced by households. This has started alarm bells ringing within the sector and government bodies; meanwhile you just have to read comments on stories in the national newspapers around recycling to see the apathy and mistrust that exists.
The lack of transparency as to what happens to separated waste, as well as rare incidences of recycling ending up in landfill due to supply chain challenges, breed contempt and mistrust amongst those we need to engage with in order to see the waste put to its best use as a resource.
Indeed, Lord de Mauley, a Defra minister, has added fuel to the fire by stating that the revised Waste Directive, which comes into force on January 1st 2015, may require councils to add more separation systems for householders. There is discord across the industry as to the interpretation of the wording of the Directive and whether it requires councils to collect separated materials or comingle. The reasoning behind collecting separated materials is the impact comingling and subsequent contamination can have further down the recycling process.
However councils decide to interpret the revised Waste Framework Directive, what is important is that engagement with communities becomes a priority. It’s hindered significantly by communications budgets being slashed following the public spending cuts, but it’s only through open communication about how waste is treated and reprocessed will the public fully appreciate why separating their waste is important and the implications of not doing it. Knowing how their waste is being incorporated into new products or even the green energy they purchase will result in the public recycling more and ultimately help to kickstart the rise of recycling rates.