Coronavirus Update

Biffa Plc - Reality Check Series: Issue 3

Inconsistency and confusion in labelling, sorting and collections are preventing UK households and businesses from turning waste into vital raw materials for our economy, says a new report from Biffa, the UK's leading recycling and waste management provider.


Recycling rates have stalled at around 45% yet the Government's new Resources & Waste Strategy aims to recycle at least 65% of municipal waste by 2035. Municipal waste includes both household and similar business waste. Both generate volumes of around 30 million tonnes per year in the UK.


Michael Topham, Chief Executive of Biffa commented: "The way we organise our recycling efforts as a society is of fundamental importance. We need a system that is environmentally ambitious, easy to use and cost effective."


A Government consultation on consistency in recycling collections aims to establish a core set of general materials to be collected. Biffa notes that collections do not take place in isolation from the rest of the waste management process. There needs to be holistic change to increase recycling rates.


Jeff Rhodes, Head of Environmental and External Affairs at Biffa, said: "There needs to simpler and more consistent packaging at source, designed for recyclability and using more recycled content, together with clear and consistent labelling for consumers. This will feed into consistency at the collection end, reducing confusion about what can and can't be recycled across the board. Personal responsibility is as important as producer responsibility."


Biffa's recommendations include:

-      Be clear on what can and can't be recycled - labelling at source is critical

-      Simplify sorting methods and collections frequency for households - make it easy

-      Don't be over prescriptive for businesses - it's not 'one size fits all'

-      Keep food waste separate - there is a huge opportunity to recycle it and generate energy


Business recycling needs understandably vary massively by sector - restaurants and supermarkets have very different waste outputs. As a result, recycling rates range from over 80% (Biffa data) at the upper end, to zero at the other end, where a business does not have a recycling service.


In England, unlike Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, compliance currently rests with the waste collector to offer recycling services while the waste producer is under no obligation to take up the service. This responsibility for compliance needs to be addressed, in order to drive the increased participation and business waste recycling increase which Government wishes to see.


Michael Topham added: "Each year Biffa collects and recycles over 4.1m tonnes of waste and recycling from UK households, businesses and industry. Put simply, when it comes to waste management, we know what works and what doesn't. We firmly believe that these realistic and practical recommendations, if implemented, will help Government deliver a system that can drive much needed change."