The majority of England’s recyclable material is collected using a commingled method, according to the findings of the Environment Agency’s (EA) TEEP survey, which showed very few councils switched to kerbside collections to adhere to regulation.
In April 2015 the EA asked English waste collection authorities (WACs), including unitary authorities, to complete a survey about changes to regulation that came into effect 1 January 2015.
Under the regulation, when making arrangements for collection of waste paper, metal, plastic or glass, WACs must ensure that collections are separate from other waste and from one another if this is both necessary (in accordance with waste hierarchy and protection of human health and the environment) and technically, environmentally and economically practicable (TEEP).
The survey asked about planned collections of waste paper, metal, plastic and glass, in particular:
- tonnages to be collected of each waste type
- collection methods (separate and commingled)
- assessment of necessity and TEEP
- implementation of assessment outcomes
The EA received 283 responses out of 321 (88%), which revealed most WCAs in England had completed necessity and TEEP assessments, or planned to do so by the end of 2015.
Assessment outcomes mainly found that no change was needed in the type of arrangements to collect the 4 waste types. Only 8 authorities that had completed an assessment have identified changes in collection practices as a result of necessity and/or TEEP assessments.
Kerbside commingled collections of these wastes are the main collection method in England and are likely to remain so, the EA says.
The survey results show that only 1.3% of the WCA collected tonnage of these wastes is through commingled non-kerbside collections, so a significant increase in separate collections of these 4 wastes overall could only be achieved through kerbside collections.
There are a few WCAs that collect less than 80% of the wastes separately but are not planning to carry out assessments and some WCAs that did not respond to the survey.
From the information provided, commingled kerbside collections are predominant and make up 65% of the total collections by WCAs of these 4 wastes.
A reduction in commingling and increase in separate collections at the kerbside would have the greatest effect in increasing overall quantities of the 4 wastes that are separately collected by WCAs, the EA says. This is because only 10% of the 4 wastes are collected by WCAs through non-kerbside methods and these are mainly separate collections.
Only very low quantities (less than 50,000t) of the 4 wastes are collected commingled by non- kerbside methods, so any changes in non-kerbside provision would have limited impact.
A considerable increase in separately collected tonnages at the kerbside would be needed to achieve a significant percentage increase in separate collections overall, the EA says.
These are broad estimates based on the 283 WCA responses received (and do not account for collections by WCAs who did not respond). The estimates also assume no change in other, non kerbside provision.
CIWM’s chef executive, Steve Lee, said: “This is a timely report by the Agency. The regulator has quite rightly adopted a monitoring role in the early stages of this requirement but their work to date shows where they must now concentrate. Recyclate markets are ‘tight’ and quality of secondary materials placed back into the market is key to recycling success. We need the Agency to stick to this task.
Steve Lee, CIWM – “The EA rightly points out that assessments by authorities need to be kept under review. This isn’t a once and for all time exercise”
“Four conclusions from the EA report stick out: first, there is a wide range of separation practice already in place with 1, 2, 3 or all 4 of the specified materials already collected separately by councils or their contractors. Most completed assessments show that further separation is not necessary to deliver high quality recycling – or if it is, that it is not “practicable” to do so.
“Secondly, just over 1 in 10 authorities did not respond to the Agency’s request for information. An incomplete response is always a concern and non-respondents must now be a follow-up priority for the Agency.
“Third, the small number of authorities (4) who did report but have low material separation and don’t plan to complete an assessment must similarly expect closer inspection. As an industry we should be striving for a 100% response to this requirement.
“Finally, the EA rightly points out that assessments by authorities need to be kept under review. This isn’t a once and for all time exercise.”