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Don’t cut collections, say UK recyclers

The UK Government is being urged to require normal levels of household recycling collections to guarantee sufficient materials for the packaging of much-needed food and medical supplies.

The Recycling Association (RA), which claims to represent the largest UK network of independent waste and recycling operators, has written to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) pointing out the risks of less collected material being made available.

Some municipalities are reducing collections because of the current coronavirus outbreak as staff numbers decline or workers are diverted to other essential services. The RA says that glass collections, in particular, are being affected.

Production boosted

RA chief executive Simon Ellin says some of his members have ramped up production to supply the extra cardboard boxes, toilet rolls, glass medicine bottles and other essential products to meet demand. ‘Many retailers and restaurants have rightly closed their doors with the exception of essential ones such as supermarkets and pharmacies. These are seeing unprecedented demand for food and medical supplies,’ he writes.

Ellin points out that, with many non-essential shops closed, less high quality retail cardboard, paper, glass, metal cans and plastics packaging is available for collection.

‘Instead, with more home deliveries from supermarkets and the likes of Amazon, more material is likely to be generated by the household. We’ve got to keep our supply chains open to ensure food and medical supplies can reach those who need it.’

Local pressure

The RA letter acknowledges the ‘great pressure’ local authorities are under:  ‘There is likely to be a temptation for local authorities to lower standards further during the crisis but I ask you to remind households and councils of the need to continue providing high quality recycling collections at the same frequency as now so that we can quickly turn these materials into new and vital products.’

He points out that much in supermarkets comes in cardboard boxes, and even products using plastic, metals and glass packaging are delivered in protective cardboard boxes. ‘There is strong demand for essential recycled cardboard from manufacturers right now’.

Wider concerns

The RA has also asked Defra to ensure export markets remain open ‘as the essential goods we need don’t necessarily come from here in the UK’. The association is also concerned at the implications of recyclers having to store greater volumes. He wants Defra to consider lighter touch regulation and relief from business taxes if storage does become an issue. ‘But if we keep recycling collections going and keep quality standards high, hopefully we won’t get to this point,’ Ellin concludes.

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