British Glass boss challenges mixed waste collection

David Workman, director general of British Glass, will debate the issue of commingled waste on 10 June 2009 with Richard Skehens, the managing director of Grundon Waste Management and chair of ESA (En…

David Workman, director general of British Glass, will debate the issue of commingled waste on 10 June 2009 with Richard Skehens, the managing director of Grundon Waste Management and chair of ESA (Environmental Services Association). This is one of a series of lively head-to-head debates involving industry“s most knowledgeable and passionate experts, which will take place at Futuresource 2009, the joint CIWM and ESA conference and exhibition at London ExCeL on 9-11 June 2009. Commingled waste is a contentious issue as more and more local authorities are relying heavily on commingled collections. This is where all recyclable materials (glass, paper, plastics, metals and textiles in some instances) are collected together and sent to a Material Recovery Facilities (MRF) for sorting in the erroneous belief that this is a cost effective “one-stop solution“. David Workman says “…the end result from such activity is that glass cullet is not only being colour mixed, it is also being compacted and mixed with other materials, making the end product difficult to process and in many cases unsuitable for container manufacture”. “We are in a situation where household glass recycling is continuing to increase but the amount being returned to glass manufacturers for remelt is decreasing. Yet glass waste remelted into glass containers is of the most environmental benefit, and a process that can go on indefinitely without loss of product quality or integrity”. Commingled waste and recycling collection has support from some quarters of the industry, one defender, as stated in the CIWM article in its March 2009 publication, being Greenstar“s chief executive, Ian Wakelin, who in the past has described commingled collections as ” a valid and valuable part of Britain“s recycling landscape. They are here to stay because they work” and insists they can deliver quality materials. David Workman contends this view, “Although glass processors over the years have invested in and introduced technology to assist with colour sorting, the technology is not quite advanced enough to pull good quality cullet out of the waste stream once it has been compacted to a high degree. And the proof that it“s not working is that the UK“s glass packaging manufacturers are crying out for more good quality cullet – as indeed are the producers of flat and fiberglass”. The UK Glass Industry is concerned that this growing trend will have a significant impact on the other legislative drivers currently in force. There is no doubt that closed loop recycling of glass delivers the greatest environmental benefit. David Workman concluded, “Recycled glass melts at a much lower temperature than virgin batch and saves a considerable amount of CO2 from being emitted. If only all local authorities and waste management companies realised that if they colour separated glass and sent it back to the industry from whence it came they would earn a far greater financial return than they do from commingling it – and make a useful contribution towards the UK“s Climate Change goals in the process”.