Modern MRFs - what’s next for materials segregation, separation and recycling
The collection of dry recycling for sorting and onward recycling has become common in the UK waste sector over the last 20 years. New materials have been added to the list of materials being collected and material sorting and recycling facilities (MRFs) have been built and improved to efficiently service the materials being collected. However, with the introduction of DRS and the rapid broadening of other dry recycling materials streams to be collected at the kerbside we are likely to see more rapid and significant change to the design and operation of collection systems and therefore the demands on our MRFs.
DRS is expected to introduce a new collection system for beverage bottles made from PET plastic, aluminium and glass, removing between 1.5 and 2Mtpa of materials from the existing kerbside collection systems and the MRFs that service them. Further with increased volumes of materials like pots tubs and trays and cartons being collected and new items like plastic films and flexible packaging likely to be added to the CORE collection materials, new or increased streams of materials will be introduced to sorting MRFs. Added to that an EPR system that is encouraging more source separated collections or simple mingled streams (like metal and glass) that will also change the quantum and composition of flows of dry recycling in the market the current sorting MRF will need some major changes to be fully fit for the future.
Stuart Hayward-Higham said: “The rate of change is rapid, with DRS due to be fully implemented and impacting in 2024 onwards and EPR changes starting to change in 2024, but on a slightly slower timeline that DRS, local authority procurement of services will start to move towards the new systems prior to 2024 and some early adopters may move quicker than the policy timelines. The opportunities for the sector are large, but so are the risks if it does not recognise and act accordingly.”
What should be considered now
- Partially or fully mingled collections will continue in areas that are too difficult or costly to deliver more source segregated collections.
- Not all materials will be fully segregated at source, plastics and cans may still be mixed, whilst glass, paper and card, and textiles may be kept separate.
- Some MRFs may adapt to manage less mingled compositions, whereas paper and card may well be collected on its own to protect quality in the end market.
- Geography will be a determining factor of the type of infrastructure available, and this will ultimately influence the types of collection service on offer.
Who should attend
- Policy makers
- Local authorities
- MRF operators
- Recycling and waste management companies
Sarah Ottaway, Social Value Lead, SUEZ recycling and recovery UK
Stuart Hayward-Higham, Technical Development Director at SUEZ recycling and recovery UK
Simon Ellin, CEO of The Recycling Association
Andrew Bird, Head of Recycling & Fleet Services at Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council