The Environment Agency has completed a pilot project looking at a new approach to waste compliance work – regulating waste streams, not just individual sites.
The study aimed to reduce the amount of waste being sent to landfill, encourage the use of waste as a resource and identify the root causes of illegal waste activity.
The project focused on four key material recycling facility sites: Bidston Moss in Wirral, Greenstar Blackburn, Adapt Recycling Bury, and Hangar 20 in Allerdale.
Andy Judd, senior environmental planning officer at the Environment Agency, said: "As well as measuring site performance, in relation to its impact on the local area, we also mapped the flow of waste in and out of the sites. This helped us understand the journey that waste takes from the moment that it is produced to the point at which it reaches its ultimate destination.
"This helps us to understand where things go wrong within the recycling system and where our regulation and advice are best placed to intervene."
Key findings of the study were as follows:
Waste production and collection – Local authority advice to householders and collection procedures have an impact on the quality of recyclate received by the MRF. Poor quality often leads to disposal at landfill
Waste segregation – early waste segregation leads to better quality output
Quality standards – QA of materials varies and often at wrong time
Economics – money drives the market in the absence of quality standards. Higher value waste with an established reuse has minimal environmental impact (steel/glass)
Exports – individual waste streams are hard to trace, due to transfer through several brokers. The key to good quality exports lies in quality control higher up the life-cycle chain
UK recovery – further work is being carried out to track the materials through to their final destination where they are reprocessed, recovered, or disposed off
Looking forward – The Environment Agency will be working to incorporate these findings into our future work including working with local authorities, waste producers, brokers, exporters and exempt facilities. We are also hoping agree appropriate quality standards and potential economic interventions.