What is the future of recycling?


Plastic waste

Joseph Doherty, CEO of Re-Gen in Northern Ireland, considers the Prime Minister’s speech cancelling a range of recycling schemes and Defra’s “Simpler Recycling” announcement.

In his new approach to reach net zero speech, Rishi Sunak said he is scrapping any prospects that the government should force us to have seven different bins in our homes.

The Prime Minister said his government is changing its approach to meeting net zero to ease the burden on working people, having “simpler recycling” is the way forward.

We agree that having a simplified system creates much better outcomes for householders and society as a whole. It is more cost-effective than other systems; it is the lower carbon-emitting option; it achieves a higher recycling rate; and it is much preferred by the householder. We have been making this point for some time because it’s backed by data.

We agree that having a simplified system creates much better outcomes for householders and society as a whole.

While it may seem obvious that a single-stream recycling system is more environmentally friendly, cost-effective, and popular among homeowners, it may be surprising to learn that it also leads to better recycling results. However, the data supports this claim. We believe the reason for this is threefold.

First, householders prefer commingled and therefore are more likely to recycle positively. Second, technology is advancing all the time in sorting capability. Third, producers are continuing to innovate to ensure packaging is easier to recycle.

For these three reasons, commingled is the better option today, and given the direction of technological advances, it will become even more effective in the future.

Doherty calls for consistent recycling collections.

A commingled recycling system is simple and convenient to use. It puts the householder at the centre of the process. It is clear to everyone working in packaging, recycling and local government that recycling rates across the four nations need to be addressed: the results could be better, we could all change our behaviour, and a systematic approach is needed.

Having a simple system where the householder can place cardboard, paper, plastic, aluminium, steel and glass in one container would drive recycling rates up.

Some might suggest that the quality of the recyclates from commingled collections is an issue. We have proven this is a myth. Our quality outputs are accepted by major corporate processers daily and demand for our product has doubled in the last 2 years. We continue to invest, in the latest and best technologies to ensure quality of the highest standard.

So in conclusion, we do need consistency in the range of recyclable items collected for the benefit of householders across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. We should all be able to recycle the same items wherever we live, work or holiday in the UK.

We all have a responsibility to plan for net zero by 2050 so that we can leave the environment in a better place for our children and grandchildren. The evidence for an efficient and effective collection system shows that commingled collections are best placed to achieve this.

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