While some things will not change, such as weight-based targets, plastics, producer responsibility and food waste are all likely to be touched on by the forthcoming Circular Economy package from Brussels, delegates to the LARAC conference heard yesterday (14 October).
The prediction for what may be in the European Commission package, due out in December, came from Stuart Hayward-Higham, technical development director of Suez who was addressing the LARAC recycling officers conference in Nottingham.
Mr Hayward-Higham suggested that the Commission could restrict the amount of plastics sent for energy from waste and also take action on food waste, perhaps targeting a reduction in current volumes by about 30%.
He also said that there is likely to be much more emphasis on extended producer responsibility – where producers and manufacturers have more duties imposed on them for their end of life products or to see that the items or materials can have a second use through reuse and repair if necessary.
But, the Suez director suggested that the EU is set to continue to focus on weight-based targets in the circular economy package and he questioned whether the EU was doing the right thing in going down the weight route.
“Our customers,” he said, “are looking for something else. The next push is not going to come from landfill tax so why are we using weight. The more you achieve in terms of diversion from landfill, the less relevant weight is.
“It’s not just about recycling topics. That’s one component, you then see cutting down of waste generated, how we ensure material is recycled, how we achieve quality. How do you break the link between growth and resources and the application of pay as you throw?”
Mr Hayward-Higham said that the Commission would be looking for a reduction in absolute terms of resource consumption with a desire for more resource efficiency. “They want to use 30% of everything back that we consume back in the system to make more products, with bans on some materials to landfill. There could possibly be an energy from waste split between disposal and recovery.”
However, he observed that the Commission has a problem is that “they are trying to legislate for an industry and sector that is today and trying to have a policy that will work until 2030.
“What could replace it? The metrics that might change – volume in bin by material type (food is the weightiest), avoided energy would mean different materials focused on, if CO2 avoided very different profile of what is avoided.”
And he warned that Europe only had about 10-15 years to get the circular economy right as the Indian and Chinese markets could come to dominate world markets in 2030.
In terms of waste collection, he said that more materials will need to be recovered with new methods including returning to factory or offices where people work, reverse vending, bring and post-back and bespoke return schemes.
“You will see the development of the EU process of producer responsibility – they will be pushing them through incentives through extended producer responsibility. They will probably want to capture their own material rather than leave it to the vagaries of other collection systems. So that’s going to change massively.”
Mr Hayward-Higham also reported on the costs of collection for pet food pouches and mattresses.
“If you then look at the costs of collection, collecting specific products can be very expensive, he said.”
Mr Hayward-Higham explained that a trial scheme to collect aluminium pet food pouches worked out at about £3,000 per tonne with 1.5kgs of aluminium that could be recycled out of 20 kilos of material collected.
On the impact of the cost of logistics for recycling mattresses, he noted: “The biggest problem in collecting mattresses is not their construction, not what foam is in them, they are very bulky and full of air. I have these stats in my head. 100 mattresses in one container weighs two tonnes, if I spent a lot of money and compressed them I could get 350 mattresses in the same container and that weighs 7 tonnes. That truck is designed to move about 24-28 tonnes, so logistics kills it.
“So the solution is the logistics, nothing to do with waste in the bin but waste in collecting the materials.”