Does geography matter when it comes to recycling

Riverside’s managing director Jonathan Oldfield considers whether geographical variances in recycling practices have an adverse impact on the UK’s ability to make wider progress…

“I read a blog recently which focused on the very diverse approaches to waste management and recycling that we see throughout the UK. It talked about the fact that, if we look at nationwide MSW collections for instance, there is no consistency.

What is a grey bin in one part of Manchester, may be a brown bin in Middlesbrough, for instance. The materials that Calderdale council will accept in a green bin, won’t necessarily be mirrored in Harrogate. And whilst one household may have two bins if they’re lucky, a relative in another part of the country may have multiple bins, a glass box and a food waste receptacle. And then there’s the multifaceted disagreements surrounding the optimum collection frequency, which also sparks much national debate.

Many people call for a uniform approach, and that would certainly help raise awareness and educate the public on the topic of recycling. It’s hard enough to remain abreast with ongoing industry developments, government targets and best-practice behaviour, without all these variations fuelling added confusion. The geographical inconsistencies no doubt also contribute to so many people having the “What difference do my efforts make to the bigger picture?” perception.

But we must also be realistic. Different local authorities have different budgets, so the recycling approach that one council can afford to carry out, may be unfeasible for another. We’ve seen examples of some fantastic communication campaigns for instance, such as Rochdale Council’s ‘Right stuff. Right Bin’ campaign (highlighted in Ricardo AEA and CIWM’s report from February 2015). But with councils each having diverse strategies, priorities, challenges, opportunities, demographics and pots of money, we’ll probably never see the uniform approach that so many people crave.

There are even stark policy differences among the devolved nations. In Scotland, for example, the newly-introduced TEEP has been defined as the mandatory separate collections of paper, plastics, metal and glass. In England there is no such clarity – TEEP is open to interpretation. I would certainly like to see this addressed. How can we work to achieve the progress that the European Commission desires, without a joined up approach?

One thing that should be said from all of this is that suppliers in the recycling and waste management industry, who are determined to operate under the guise of ‘one size fits all’, are unlikely to succeed for much longer.  A tailored service is required.

That’s the approach we try to take, opting to address each potential customer’s specific needs, before providing advice based on the information we’ve been given. This will firstly influence whether or not a waste baler is right for the organisation concerned. If a baler could prove a value-adding asset, it’s then important to consider the best-fit model, relevant consumables, recommended maintenance structure and procurement method.

Considering the facts at hand on a case by case basis is the only way to drive progress in such a diverse business environment – even more so in the waste and recycling industry.”

If you’d like to speak to our team regarding your waste handling requirements, please contact us on 01423 325038, email, or complete our short enquiry form and we’ll be in touch.