Keep calm and carry on recycling

Published: 05 Jan 2018

‘Keep calm and carry on recycling’.  That’s the message from the Hertfordshire Waste Partnership (HWP) following news reports about changes which will impact on the ability of the UK and other countries to trade mixed recyclables with China.

Cllr Terry Hone, Executive Member for Community Safety & Waste Management and Chairman of the Hertfordshire Waste Partnership, said: “The HWP and its partner authorities have been aware of the change to the rules introduced by the Chinese government for exporting dry recyclables to that country for some months. Discussions have been ongoing with HWP consortium contractors who have also been keeping the China situation under review. As a result HWP contractors have been investigating and diversifying by using alternative markets and consequently the amount of mixed recyclables exported to China has significantly reduced in recent months.’

Cllr Hone added: “Each year Hertfordshire residents generate approximately 135,000 tonnes of dry recyclables via kerbside recycling collections, neighbourhood recycling banks and at the county’s network of Household Waste Recycling Centres. A significant proportion of this material such as separately collected newspapers and magazines, steel and aluminium cans and textiles are sent to reprocessors here in the UK. Similarly all of the organic materials collected in Hertfordshire, such as garden waste and food waste, are also processed at recycling plants in the UK including at a number of facilities in Hertfordshire. This underlines the HWP’s general approach of promoting UK based recycling. However, the HWP recognises that due to a lack of reprocessing capacity in some sectors, it is necessary to trade on the international market. We believe the Government’s new Resources & Waste Strategy expected later this year is a chance to encourage the development of UK based reprocessing capacity so the UK can become more self-sufficient. Although China has previously acted as a large market for mixed recyclables, many other countries in the region are actively engaged in the international trade in mixed recyclables.”

Duncan Jones, Partnership Development Manager for the HWP said: “The core issue is the quality of materials that we collect for recycling which in turn is based on the quality of materials that residents put into their recycling bins; the better the quality the bigger the number of possible markets and the better potential for generating income which then reduces net costs to council tax payers.”

Mr Jones emphasised: “It is very important that residents follow the advice issued by their local council on which materials can and cannot be recycled, especially at certain times of the year such as after the festive period, or Easter when contamination levels can increase significantly. This type of information is available on each local council’s website, along with additional guidance, such as remembering to ‘wash and squash’ recyclables where necessary.”  In response to concerns about the possible impact on recycling services provided to local residents Mr Jones added “a significant proportion of the HWP’s mixed dry recyclables are covered by contracts which include mechanisms to deal with market fluctuations and as such the China situation should have no direct impact on collection services which will run as normal.”

Mr Jones concluded noting that: “The importance of quality recyclable wastes is key and, whilst there will always be a small element of material collected that will need to be disposed of following the recyclable sorting process, for example, due to food contamination in cans or plastic film that cannot be readily recycled; we can provide residents with assurance that the separation of recyclables is very much worthwhile and the material is handled professionally with the intention of recycling as much as possible. It is important therefore that residents continue their excellent efforts to date that have seen the Hertfordshire Waste Partnership exceed 50% recycling of their household waste. Thank you and please keep up the good work”.