Quality

The end of waste as we know it. It’s at the heart of everything we do and if we’re going to achieve sustainable recycling it has to be important to everyone.

Definitions

Quality is central to the End of Waste. Introduced under Article 6 of the Waste Framework Directive, the aim is to stimulate European recycling markets, remove unnecessary burdens and release safe, clean secondary raw materials into the manufacturing process. The definition of the end of waste is determined at the point at which recovered material can be classified as a material and is no longer subject to waste management controls. It’s seen as a way to boost market confidence and facilitate trade.

The agreed criteria have been defined as; certain, specified waste shall cease to be waste when it has undergone a recovery; including recycling, operation and complies with specific criteria to be developed in accordance with the following conditions:

  • The substance or object is commonly used for a specific purpose
  • A market or demand exists for such a substance or object
  • The substance or object fulfils the technical requirements for the specific purpose and meets the existing legislation and standards applicable to products
  • The use of the substance or object will not lead to overall adverse environmental or human health impacts

While regulations for iron, steel, aluminium and glass have been adopted, regulations for copper and paper are being prepared at European Union level. Studies are also ongoing for biodegradable waste and plastics.

The aim of the regulations is to promote product standardisation, develop control procedures, processes and techniques to ensure our resources are used as efficiently as possible. To make sure we are not unduly wasting vital resources that can help rejuvenate ailing economies.

WHY?

Quality raw materials are key to DS Smith's finished product – we only use recovered fibre. Output from poor quality material challenges our ability to source good quality materials for our Group's packaging manufacturing activities. It doesn't stop there, brand owners demand high quality material for their recycled packaging and consumers demand products that are sustainably made to a high standard.

Many paper mills and other reprocessors are expected to consider input material that has between 1% - 8% rejects. No other manufacturer would be expected to accept that level of rejects in their raw materials, so why should paper makers or any other material reprocessor? So it affects everyone and everyone has a role in producing higher, consistent quality recycling.

So what needs to happen?

But that’s all the theory. How do we actually achieve higher, consistent quality in recycling? What practices do we need to implement to ensure we reach this and comply with regulations? We’ve come up with four practical solutions which we believe are integral to reaching this goal.

SOURCE SEPARATION...

Where possible, materials should be collected separately. There will always be instances where the environmental or economic case stipulates the need for mixed collection but in the first instance we should look at the options of collecting different materials separately. It means looking at each situation and assessing the best solution for it. It means we need to be more creative and innovative to ensure the materials we receive can be used most efficiently.


And this shouldn’t just be restricted to individual material types. We work with our clients looking at the composition of different types within a single material stream, such as identifying different polymers in plastics or further separating food into baked goods, fruit or meat products. Breaking down the collection in this way results in less contamination, with the ability to gain a higher value for the higher quality material.

EDUCATION...

Greater awareness is needed across all parts of the supply chain on the impact of materials entering the waste stream. People need to understand the part they play in using and consuming resources and it’s not just a problem that the resource management industry has to resolve. Few householders really know what happens to the recyclate once it leaves their doorstep and improving their knowledge can help the process. We’re not alchemists and to produce a quality output, the material input needs to be of a standard quality too. Assigning appropriate budgets to develop consistent, continual communications is required. These days we have a variety of communication tools available and we should make use of all where relevant to the audience we’re engaging with.

RESOURCE NOT WASTE...

Let’s make a concerted effort to use the word ‘resource’, as a way of changing peoples’ mindsets. Referring to materials as a resource attaches a value to them; they are much needed and have a life or
use way beyond the time they end up in the dustbin. With population increases and global development, our natural resources are under serious threat as
we seek to improve economies fit for everyone. We need to make the most of the resources and ensure their presence is extended for as long as possible. ‘Closing the loop’ and the ‘circular economy’ have become popular phrases in recent times – we’ve been successfully doing it for years – but in order to make the most of resources, quality has to be key. Keeping resources within the economy as long as possible can only be possible if they are of high enough quality.

TRANSPARENCY...

Achieving higher, consistent quality can be beneficial to everyone. But only if there is a level playing field. When discussing progress we should make the distinction between recycling rates and collection rates. Definitions of standards need to be clear cut and regulations rigorously enforced with sanctions and penalties that deter wrongdoing. Without transparency there’ll always be the opportunity to flout the rules, providing an uncompetitive advantage over others. Regulators need to have the powers and budgets to provide proper enforcement. Increasingly, businesses and organisations need to provide an audit trail, demonstrate a final destination for materials that have complied with the principles of the Waste Hierarchy. This all helps with protecting and enhancing brand reputation, essential in today’s business world. 

This White Paper discusses the requirements needed for the UK to achieve higher, consistent quality in recycling.