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Major New Study Examining Contamination in Recycling

09 September 2013 | 2 min read

RPS has been commissioned by Zero Waste Scotland to carry out a major research study examining levels of contamination in recycling which has been separated and sorted at the kerbside.

This project will involve a large number of staff from RPS Belfast, Letterkenny, Dublin and Bristol offices. In total the research will analyse both household, and commercial and industrial waste from 123 sites across the UK including local authorities, bulking stations, transfer stations, and reprocessors.

The study will examine samples of materials collected separately for recycling to assess typical levels of contamination in five key materials – paper, card, glass, plastics and metals. The research forms a key part of Scottish Government proposals to maximise high quality recycling through its Zero Waste Plan.

New waste regulations, which were passed by the Scottish Parliament in May 2012, require key recyclable materials to be collected separately from one another, except where it can be demonstrated that a mixed or 'commingled' collection can achieve similar levels of quality.

By creating a benchmark for quality levels typically obtained through separate collections, the research will inform how the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) enforces the new regulations.

Iain Gulland, Director of Zero Waste Scotland, explains: "Maximising quality is essential if we are to realise the economic and environmental benefits of recycling and develop a more circular economy. This is an important study which will give operators of commingled collections a clear indication of the standards they might be expected to meet to comply with the new regulations."

Gary Walker, Principal Policy Officer at SEPA, said: "SEPA welcomes this study as we will require good baseline information to help target our regulatory efforts where they will most effectively support high quality recycling. This study will also enable the local authorities and waste management contractors who provide collection services to determine whether their collection systems are sufficiently robust to deliver the quantity and quality of recyclate required."

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