Time to streamline cardboard

We need to streamline cardboard recycling in the UK, here’s why…

As we await more detail on the pledges made at the recent COP26 Climate Summit in Glasgow there is one existing pledge that, if supported with investments and policies, is not only achievable but a tremendous opportunity for the UK to both deliver on one of its environmental commitments as well as creating more jobs in the green market. 

In 2020 the UK government set a target to recycle 65%[1] of wfh (waste from households) by 2035. The target seems attainable -in 2019 the UK wfh recycling rate was 46.2%- up from 45% in 2018- however there is a recycling crisis looming on the horizon which could derail the governments commitments, cost the country billions and further contribute to climate change- unless drastic action is taken to bolster and enhance efficiency in the currently stressed recycling industry. 

What are the issues?

When the UK’s recycling infrastructure was first built, online shopping was not the behemoth it is today and China was heavily relied upon to buy a large proportion of our recycling waste with a high contamination rate (mixed materials, food contamination etc). But in the last decade consumer shopping habits have dramatically changed with a continued shift away from in-store purchases to online – exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. This major shift in consumer spending has driven an increase in home parcel deliveries and therefore contributed to a huge rise in packaging that requires recycling. 

Furthermore China can no longer be relied upon to buy our recycling waste- since 2018 the country has implemented the ‘China National Sword’ policy that bans 24 types of waste materials and sets extremely high standards for contamination levels in recyclable materials. These strict requirements have resulted in a huge drop in the amount of recycling the UK is able to send abroad and therefore must be processed on UK soil. 

This over-reliance on sending waste overseas coupled with budget cuts and a lack of foresight into the online shopping boom (and the consequential recycling demands) have allowed the UK’s recycling infrastructure to become neglected over the years. As a result existing recycling facilities are now unable to accommodate the ever-increasing demand for recycling, with some facilities having to direct recyclable materials to landfill. 

To further add to the issues facing the industry, the UK has many, many different recycling schemes with a variety of kerbside recycling arrangements organised by individual councils, which has contributed to public confusion over what can be recycled, where and how.

What can be done?

In order to avoid overflowing bins and a large stockpile of recyclable materials with no where to go, the government must invest in, standardise and upgrade the existing recycling infrastructure across the UK in order to cope with the country’s recycling needs and meet existing and new climate pledges. A streamlined system would help improve the quality and productivity of our recycling but will also help us to develop a strong, more sustainable recycling supply chain in the UK. 

Whilst fixing a groaning recycling system is not a quick or easy solution, it is a great opportunity for the UK to both take a giant leap towards meeting it’s environmental commitments on recycling and invest in jobs in the green market. But it is also vital that these changes are made to future proof the industry as our love of online shopping, rapid delivery and the convenience this affords us is unlikely to diminish anytime soon. 

In the meantime Enava continues to help households and businesses of all sizes across the UK with our flexible cardboard and paper collection service, ensuring your confidential data is, at all times, secure and your recycling needs are met efficiently. 

As one of the largest fibre processing plants in the UK we are able to recycle over 52,000 tonnes of paper and cardboard every year! We collect, process and recycle all types of fibre-based material before it is sent on for recycling at accredited paper mills.  As a zero waste to landfill business we can guarantee that nothing ends up in landfill – and no stockpiling of recyclable materials either!

As both waste paper merchant and disposal specialist we can offer competitive rebates for paper and cardboard waste collections, which can make collections a cost-neutral or profitable deal for your business. We also accept cardboard drop-offs at our facility. 

Recycling paper and cardboard CAN be done easily and efficiently so until the country gets up to speed with new policies and increased investment- and we have to hope that post COP26 there will be some momentum behind such a policy change- our team at Enava will keep flying the flag for how recycling should be done. 

[1] https://www.letsrecycle.com/news/uk-targets-65-recycling-under-circular-economy-package/

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