Quality opportunities for growth

Dr Liz Goodwin, CEO, WRAP

There is further evidence today that we are more and more coming to understand the huge value of all the materials flowing round our economy.

At our annual conference last November I highlighted, amongst other things, the success story around WRAP and recycling in the UK – not only in its contribution to the environment but also to economic growth.

The materials we put out for recycling are a resource with a value, and herein lies a great opportunity.

Producing good quality recyclate is critical if we are to sustain the growth of the whole recycling supply chain, and make sure this success story continues. Quality underpins the collections, infrastructure, and markets upon which our recycling supply chain is based. That’s why I, and many others, believe that the launch of a consultation  on material quality this morning marks an important milestone for the sector.

Quality is a priority for all of our funders. Last year we saw the Scottish Government launch its own consultation on a Recyclate Quality Action Plan which sets out a number of actions they would like to introduce in order to drive up the quality of materials coming out of Materials Recycling Facilities (MRFs) in Scotland.

The industry has made great strides in improving quality, and some MRFs are producing excellent quality recyclate. But it’s in all of our interests to make sure that we’re extracting the maximum possible value out of our recyclate across the board, in order to compete effectively in both domestic and overseas markets. Higher quality materials will also attract higher, more stable prices.

Of course, it’s not just MRFs who bear the responsibility of producing quality recyclate. This starts in the home, and communication with residents about what they can and can’t recycle is very important – which is why we have a range of free communications materials that can help local authorities deliver these messages.

We’ve been working closely with Defra and the Environmental Services Association over the last couple of years to help draw up the consultation document for the Environmental Permitting Regulations for England and Wales (which will underpin a MRF Code of Practice) and a Quality Action Plan for England.

For me, the most important element of the consultation launched today is the requirement to measure quality at MRFs, and for those results to be available to local authorities and reprocessors in some form. This will give reprocessors and manufacturers more confidence in the quality of materials they are purchasing, and drive up demand for greater quantities. That means more money going back into the UK economy, and more jobs.

I’d really encourage anyone with views on this to take advantage of the consultation period. It’s only with the input of the whole sector that a Code of Practice, backed up by changes in regulation, can be developed which is fit for purpose and works for the whole supply chain – and which delivers rewards that will benefit the whole sector.


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