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 (letsrecycle.com 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.

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