Do Recycling Targets Mean Anything?

EU to Announce Lower Recycling Targets

With the European Commission about to drop the target for recycling municipal waste from 70% to 65% (MRW 26th November 2015), there is a question about the relevance of such targets.

Bales of Recycled Plastic
Recycled Plastic

Environmental concerns continue to lead politicians to implement legislation and regulations that may appear sensible on paper, but are either difficult or even impossible to implement in practice.  Recent regulatory changes on material storage conditions resulted in Hadfields Wood Recyclers closing their doors ( 29th July 2015) and this is just one example where there appears to be a distinct lack of understanding of the recycling industry.

So, are recycling targets just another example of politicians being politicians?

Successful recycling is dependent on action at different levels of the material chain including:

  • The design of packaging and equipment to enable easy reuse or separation for recycling;
  • Technology like Magnetic Separation and Eddy Current Separation to enable separation of materials entering a waste stream;

    Bunting Overband Magnet over Conveyor 2
    Bunting Overband Magnetic Separator recovering Steel Cans
  • Markets for the recycled product once recovered;

There is action needed in all three areas and, potentially political intervention, although with guidance from those in the industry.

Unfortunately, politicians are only interested in the figures that will impress the voters.  By stating that the target for waste recycling is 70%, the EC was seen by the press and general public as taking a stand to address damage to the global environment, but without any real understanding of how that target was going to be achieved.

It would be interesting to hear why the target for municipal waste recycling has been revised and how the European Commission has reached this new figure of 65%.  Maybe it is just another figure plucked out of the air to give the impression that the EU is keen to address the growing global environmental problems?  Or was it actually drawn out of a hat.

UK Research and Development in Crisis?

MPs have criticised UK companies for their lack of innovation, reports PRW (November 2015).  In a damning report, the UK is listed as being 12th in the R&D investment table of European countries, a position causing UK economists and industrialists a great deal of concern.

Innovation and new product development is vitally important for any business, especially in the technology sector.  With Global political pressure on conserving resources, recycling is one industry where such innovation is key.  There is a need to improve segregation and separation to optimise material recovery for reintroduction into the manufacturing chain.

In the past 2 months, Bunting Europe has exhibited at 2 major recycling shows:  RWM 2015 held at the NEC in Birmingham, UK and Recycling Technik held in Dortmund, Germany.  At both shows, equipment manufacturers had the opportunity to showcase new technology.  At RWM, companies including BHS-Sonthofen, Ekko Waste Solutions and JCB showcased new technology.  Bunting Europe also led the way in showcasing innovation with the launch of the Stainless Steel Magnetic Separator.

Bunting Stainless Steel Separator at RWM2015-0094

The latest concerns from the UK government are understandable, but are they misdirected?  Do the political parties also need to take some responsibility?  Innovation and new product development takes time and resource, two factors that are not necessarily compatible with many businesses philosophies at the present time.  There is intense pressure to generate a quick return with higher and higher profits and this is not necessarily ideal for longer term development of ideas, of which some will fail.  Planning only for the short term with a rapid turnover of senior management and board members stifles R&D.

There is no easy answer to this problem and it is likely that the situation will worsen before it gets better.  However, there needs to be a rethink from UK business and government and this may involve finally looking for stability and setting longer term objectives and financial goals.  It may upset share holders in the short term, but the opportunities in the future are far far greater.

Exhibiting Overseas to Reboot UK Exports

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has reported a fall in business growth and confidence among British Exporters, as reported in PRW.  In fact, UK Export activity is reported as being at its lowest level since 2009.

The delicate World economy continues to cause governments and businesses great concern, especially as there appears to be little sign of change.  The recent well publicized announcements about the falling growth rate in China dominated the news for several days and the EU economy teeters around recession.  So is there anything that UK Exporters can do?

Bunting Magnetics Head of Sales, David Hills, explained that attack is sometimes the best way to defend:Bunting Stainless Steel Separator at RWM2015-0093

“The market place is challenging and the indigenous competition is strong.  For UK Exporters, we believe that innovation and new products are really important.  We have recently developed a new Magnetic Separator for the recovery of Stainless Steel and separation of weakly magnetic materials for the recycling sector and will be exhibiting a working production sized model at the Recycling Technik show in Dortmund (4th & 5th November 2015).  The High Intensity Separation Conveyor (HISC) was first launched at RWM, the UK’s largest recycling show, and the response was fantastic.

“Presently, none of our competitors have a Magnetic Separator that achieves the same level of stainless steel separation and we need to shout about it.  Exhibiting at overseas shows is very expensive, but we believe that it is important to be seen in the market as only then you are taken seriously.  Our stand will be manned by German speaking staff and that will make a huge difference.  As a UK Exporter, we need to commit to the market for local companies to commit to us as a supplier.”

Bunting exports a wide range of Magnetic Separation and Magnet products globally from their UK manufacturing facility in Berkhamsted, UK.  The company is presently expanding and searching for marketing agents in key territories.

“Having local representation in the market is important and is one of our primary objectives over the next 6 months,” David said.  “We already have some really good representatives and distributors, but growing that network is so important to our growth.”

And the future?

“Challenging, yes.  But we want to try and keep control of our own destiny and investing in marketing, overseas exhibitions and new local representation is vital.”

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