With the UK now reportedly recycling more than ever before – and better still producing less waste in the first place – we should feel greatly encouraged by the country’s ever-advancing approach to waste management. But what more can we do?
What has particularly stood out to us this month in terms of industry developments is the recast of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive. Targets are set to get tougher so recycling rates will need to increase. But if WEEE collection rates are to rise to 85% from 2016 as suggested, how can the country make this transition?
An interesting feature in MRW considered the potential need to further enhance the reporting process for WEEE collections. A large proportion of unwanted IT for example still has a lengthy lifespan, so because it can be reused it is not recorded as waste and therefore doesn’t make it into WEEE records. Indeed it therefore seems a valid point that once WEEE waste is collected and tested for reuse, it should perhaps no longer be classified as waste, because the reuse of WEEE is certainly the most environmentally sound option.
On a consumer level, a greater number of WEEE collection points is similarly an inspired suggestion. It’s currently too easy for households to dispose of small electrical items along with the rest of their black bag waste, but if large electrical retailers and supermarkets offered to collect such products in store, recycling rates would no doubt improve.
As always, to make further progress much boils down to education and awareness, and this remains an important issue, not only throughout the waste management industry but across local authorities, amongst UK businesses and right down to individual members of the general public.
I read recently for example that although 2010 battery collection rates were incredibly strong, a survey carried out by YouGov revealed that 49% of people in this country have never recycled an old household battery – a shocking statistic considering tough EU legislation which states we should be recycling 45% of used batteries every year to comply with 2016 targets.
It’s therefore clear that significant work is still to be done in the UK, but what is encouraging is that month by month the enthusiasm and buzz surrounding our overall approach to waste management really does seem to be getting greater and greater. It’s just important that in continuing to work towards ever-changing targets, we don’t take our eyes off the ball.
Chris Oldfield, managing director, Riverside Waste Machinery