New research advocates co-mingled recycling

According to a new report that has just been published, co-mingled collections are a very positive step for many local authorities as they not only reduce costs but also increase the amount of household waste that is being recycled.

The findings come from WYG, the global multi-disciplinary consultancy which has financial backing from Biffa, the recycling specialist and PlasticsEurope, the leading trade association. The report highlights that 20 of the 30 councils in Britain that are classed as high performing in their dry recycling collections operate a co-mingling service that also included glass.

WYG’s researchers analysed WasteDataFlow information submitted to central government by local authorities for the year 2010/11 to identify the key drivers to the top performing and most improved councils for collecting dry recycling. This year’s report also features a focus on plastics collection: analysing which authorities collect the most plastics, the collection methods used by the top performers, and the carbon impacts of the different collection methods.

Len Attrill, Project Director, WYG said: “As has been the case in the two previous years, the highest performing councils in terms of dry recycling are dominated by authorities that collect co-mingled dry recycling, with both recycling and residual waste collected fortnightly using wheeled bins.”

Although affluent areas tend to have higher yields of all materials, the analysis reveals that fully co-mingled collections including glass tend to outperform kerbside sorted collections by a similar margin across all levels of affluence.

The council with the highest yield of recycling (at 295kg per household per year) is Surrey Heath.

This highest performing fully co-mingled authority collects nearly 60kg per household per year more than Guildford, the highest performing authority that collects using mainly kerbside sort.

Findings have also highlighted that no authority in the top 30 for kerbside sort recycling collects all materials separately: two collect mainly using kerbside sort, but provide co-mingled collections for some materials or some households.  These two authorities collect recycling weekly; 26 out of the top 30 kerbside sort collecting councils collect fortnightly.

Of the top 30 councils for plastics collected at the kerbside:

• Staffordshire Moorlands achieved the highest yield for plastic with 42kg per household per year

• 25 collect plastic containers as well as plastic bottles

• All except one collect plastics within a co-mingled stream – only Newport collects plastics as a separate stream.

The results show that some councils are recycling significant quantities of plastics at the kerbside, with many high performers collecting plastic containers as well as plastic bottles and co-mingling plastics with other materials to accommodate the range and volume of materials.

Analysis of the 15 highest improvers for kerbside recycling between 2009/10 and 2010/11 showed that 11 of them moved to fully co-mingled collections that include glass. The three authorities that continued collecting using kerbside sort added plastics and cardboard and moved from fortnightly to weekly recycling collections and from weekly to fortnightly refuse collections.

Len summarised: “The degree of difference in yields between kerbside-sort schemes and fully co-mingled collections including glass is significant. Taken as a whole, the research has highlighted that co-mingling can deliver a high performing, high quality recycling service that reduces the amount of waste sent to landfill sites, resulting in significant savings both to the environment and the taxpayer.”

WYG’s report ‘Review of Kerbside Recycling Collection Schemes in the UK 2010/11’ is available at www.wyg.com/recyclingreview