Somerset Waste Partnership Case Study

COMPANY / ORGANISATION: Somerset Waste Partnership, KIER


DS Smith is a leading provider of corrugated and plastics packaging, supported by paper and recycling operations. The Recycling Division is Europe’s largest paper recycler, managing 5.4 million tonnes of paper and cardboard every year. We are constantly on a mission to source material of the highest possible quality to serve as feedstock for our paper mills. We work with a number of organisations, from businesses to local authorities, to find material for our mills.

Like any production process we require good quality raw materials – and that means sourcing recycled paper and card with minimum contamination from food and other non-paper sources. We can only make paper from paper: we can’t make it from food, glass or plastics.

Somerset Waste Partnership manages recycling and waste services for Mendip, Sedgemoor, South Somerset and West Somerset District Councils, Taunton Deane Borough Council and Somerset County Council.

The six Somerset local authorities have worked together on waste services since 1992, and in 2007, Somerset became the first county-wide area to combine its waste and recycling services with a single joint committee of representatives of all six councils.

Somerset Waste Partnership manages and plans waste collection and recycling services for over 250,000 households in Somerset. It aims to increase recycling levels to 70% and reduce the amount of waste being sent to landfill.

The 2007 transition to the new Waste Partnership model was, in its own words, “a big step in improving and harmonising recycling and waste services across Somerset”, allowing councils to save over £1.5m every year through working as a partnership.

Since 2000, Somerset’s recycling waste has increased – and total household waste has fallen, in spite of Somerset’s growing population.

Including two significant spikes in 2011 and 2014, the domestic mill prices for mixed papers have been increasing steadily since 2006. 

Data source:’s records of domestic mill prices for mixed papers from 2006-2015.

The challenge

The challenge was twofold, but with both challenges clearly interlinked;

  • DS Smith Recycling needs good-quality paper and cardboard in order to supply our paper mills and closed-loop recycling processes.
  • Somerset Waste Partnership, in providing services to 250,000 households, wants to achieve high recycling rates and ensure that as little waste as possible goes to landfill. It deals with around 250,000 tonnes of household waste every year through contractors Viridor, which manages recycling sites, and Kier, which carries out all kerbside collections.

As well as ensuring a high level of recycling, Somerset Waste Partnership is keen to work with partners that process their material in UK paper mills, rather than relying on the international export market. 

The solution

From 2010, Somerset Waste Partnership with Kier rolled out a new ‘Sort It Plus’ collections service. The single-pass collection vehicle used for ‘Sort It Plus’ performs weekly collections of food waste and dry materials, from paper to clothes. 

Though one vehicle collects all waste streams, the materials are segregated at the kerbside and loaded separately. This double sorting – by householder and then by collection crew – significantly reduces contamination of each material type. 

This is a key component in helping to ensure minimum contamination of materials collected for recycling – thus providing the quality raw material that paper mills and other reprocessors need for their production cycles.

After Kier has collected the material, it is supplied to DS Smith and other reprocessors as part of a supply partnership. Crucial to this partnership is the kerbside sorting of the recycling. This ensures that contamination is kept to a minimum, and that material meant for recycling is actually recycled – and not diverted to waste-to-energy due its poor quality.

The benefits

Our operations at Kemsley need a constant volume of paper and cardboard for recycling. In recent years, domestic mixed papers have become ‘harder’ – containing higher levels of cardboard. 

Changes in general lifestyle, consumer habits, and the rise of online retailing have all contributed the increase of transit packaging finding its way into domestic waste streams. Along with retailers, domestic recycling streams are good sources of paper and card for recycling processes – as long as the quality is maintained. For DS Smith, this is best done through source segregated recycling collections.

Jonathan Scott, Operations Manager at Kemsley Mill, said:

We are becoming less reliant on traditional corrugated case material and starting to use more and more mixed papers. It only takes a slight increase in the wrong kind of contamination for the effect on production to be very disruptive, so to protect our operations and meet production targets, a rigorous and consistent approach to quality is important. Material that’s segregated at source has a much lower rate of contamination, so it’s better for our production processes at Kemsley.

Matthew Gibbon, Head of Resource Management at Kier, said:

A key priority for the Somerset Waste Partnership was to increase recycling rates. The implementation of ‘Sort It Plus’ increased the quality of our recyclates significantly. Our partnership with DS Smith ensures a high level of recycling of paper and cardboard, and importantly for us, ensures the materials are processed within the UK.