A letter has been sent from The Recycling Association to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs asking it to ensure that recycling collections from households are maintained. With the current coronavirus outbreak, vital packaging is needed to protect food and medical supplies and there is a risk that less material will be available if councils cut recycling collections.
As pointed out in the letter written by The Recycling Association chief executive Simon Ellin, some members of the Association have ramped up production to supply the extra cardboard boxes, toilet rolls, glass medicine bottles and other essential products to meet demand.
Ellin said, “Many retailers and restaurants have rightly closed their doors with the exception of essential ones such as supermarkets and pharmacies. These are seeing unprecedented demand for food and medical supplies. However, with other shops closed, high quality retail cardboard, paper, glass, metal cans and plastics packaging are now not there to collect. Instead, with more home deliveries from supermarkets and the likes of Amazon, more material is likely to be generated by the household.
“Our members are hearing reports from all corners of the world that essential cardboard, paper, glass, metal cans and plastics are in very strong demand. We’ve got to keep our supply chains open to ensure food and medical supplies can reach those who need it. Indeed, some of our members have increased production to ensure they are playing their part by providing essential products such as toilet rolls, cereal boxes, medicine bottles, plus milk and soft drinks bottles.
“I know there is great pressure on resources at the moment, but local authorities must maintain standards to ensure we receive decent quality material. They should also keep collecting material to be recycled.
“We know it is very difficult for councils at the moment, and I have utmost respect for those who are out and about everyday emptying our bins while trying to stay safe. These key workers are essential for enabling us to keep supplies flowing.
“But we need to provide our supply chains with material. If you think about cardboard, so much in our supermarkets comes in cardboard boxes – everything from eggs to frozen fish fingers. Most of the time, even products using plastic, metals and glass packaging are delivered to supermarkets in protective cardboard boxes. If you think about medicine bottles or tubes, these are often protected by a cardboard box too. I know there is strong demand for essential recycled cardboard from manufacturers right now.
“Or if you take the example of glass, there is strong demand from the glass bottle manufacturers for recycled glass because they are manufacturing more medicine bottles and food jars. But we are hearing that glass collections are being cut by some councils, particularly in Scotland. Across all materials, it is essential that councils keep collecting especially with commercial collections from many shops and restaurants not possible now they have closed.
“Additionally, I have asked Defra to keep export markets open as the essential goods we need don’t necessarily come from here in the UK. We therefore have to supply world markets so that they can send their goods back to us.
“Markets for recycled materials may become harder to access over the coming weeks and months, and there is a possibility we may need to store material, especially if quality standards drop and international markets look elsewhere. I have asked Defra to consider lighter touch regulation and business rate relief on storage if this comes to pass. But if we keep recycling collections going and keep quality standards high, hopefully we won’t get to this point.”