Kathryn Wright invests the waste industry for the forthcoming year, and looks at potential new trends and challenges.
2020 will see the start of the clean, lean years in terms of recycling. Any business which wants to embrace the green agenda in a meaningful way will have to look again at how they manage their waste resources.
Waste management practises will polarise – solid, back-to-basics local recycling of a few core waste streams on the one hand and highly sophisticated, science-based solutions on the other.
Here’s why this has to be the case. In 2016 China accounted for 50% of the EU’s paper waste according to the Statistical Office of the European Union (Eurostat). By 2018 it has declined to 26% and will drop further. A bale of paper waste is considered contaminated if it contains 0.5% of the wrong material.
Segmenting the streams
Waste streams have to be segregated scrupulously if they are to have any value, and some such as waste cardboard, are worth almost nothing at all. Others, like the lithium in electric car batteries, are incredibly precious but require an investment of skill and science and a well-coordinated logistic process to extract that value.
You may think this won’t concern you as your business doesn’t need to recycle things as complex as cars, but every day office items such as printers, screens or clocks now require special recycling.
The rules are changing
POPS (Persistent Organic Pollutants) have been banned since the 1970s because of their effect on human health, causing reproductive and immune system deficits. They bio-magnify throughout the food chain and bio-accumulate in organisms, and the outlawing of products such as the pesticide DDT is an example of one of the first products to be banned but which can still be found in the environment.
However, because of the flame-resistant attributes of some types of POPS, they continued to be used in the plastics of a wide variety of household and office products made in some countries until the Stockholm Convention was finalised in 2001.
This means many products still in use contain these potentially harmful chemicals, and legislation was introduced in the UK last year requiring any products with high levels of POPS to be treated as hazardous waste.
This poses another waste segregation challenge. How do you know which items contain high levels of POPS and what will you do with them to ensure your organisation is compliant?
A resource partner rather than a waste collector
The need for a trusted, experienced and also innovative waste management supplier has never been more important. Cawleys has been at the forefront of recycling processes for years, for example opening its own wet Materials Recycling Facility (MRF) in 1984 and was recently recognised by the BBC as one of the only waste management companies in the UK already prepared and able to deal with electric car battery recycling.
Our hazardous waste division can handle both hazardous and non-hazardous WEEE (waste electrical and electronic equipment) and this level of knowledge and expertise is essential in a waste management company nowadays.
You can’t afford not to review your waste management practices. Cost, of course, will be one factor that should be scrutinised, and it may actually be possible to achieve higher recycling rates at the same or lower costs through the introduction of new working practices or approaches.
The important thing is to ask and challenge the status quo. Do you know where your waste is going and what recycling rates are being achieved for which materials? Money and morals are now entwined, and also surprisingly perhaps, motivation. Our experience has shown us that staff can be very motivated by seeing tangible changes to the environmental practices and waste management systems of the organisation they work for.
If cost and care for the planet isn’t encouragement enough to review waste management practices in 2020, the prospect of increased staff morale and productivity could perhaps be the key decider.