The wide world of recycling

The wide world of recycling

By Editorial Staff, Resource Recycling

Scotland is considering new regulations for MRFs and New Zealand's e-scrap recycling program is producing underwhelming results.

The Scottish government is considering measures aimed at increasing the quality of material flowing in and out of materials recovery facilities (MRFs). A consultation paper issued this month by Scottish officials examines the options to increase the quality of recyclable commodities produced in the country. Of the actions mentioned in the document are steps such as better outreach to consumers and better data gathering. But much of the document focuses on how to make the country's MRFs function better.

"While there are many examples of good practices, recent studies have shown a significant proportion of MRFs do not monitor the quality of their outputs and the majority of those that did rely simply on visual inspection," reads the document. "It is estimated that less than 30 percent of MRF operators have robust quality monitoring processes in place. Furthermore, the studies found inconsistency in the sampling methods used and that many were not formally written down or available for inspection."

Additionally, a 2012 study found a 10.5 percent contamination rate at MRFs, with some even higher.

There isn't enough information on the quality of recyclable commodities being produced, according to the document. Manufacturers aren't confident about what they are purchasing and are incurring unwanted disposal costs for contaminated material.

In response, the Scottish government is considering enacting laws designed to bring more uniformity to how the country's MRFs operate. According to the document, the right regulations would bring a more level playing field and would give MRF operators confidence that putting quality assurance programs in place would not put them at a competitive disadvantage.

The new regulations would also formalize quality testing of recyclables to help bolster the secondary materials market. MRFs would also be required to measure the composition of inputs and outputs and make the information available.

In New Zealand, only 1 percent of unwanted televisions and other electronics are being recycled through a government program, reports Stuff, citing an analysis from RCN, a large e-scrap recycling company. Instead, the majority of the material is going to landfill or is being disposed of illegally.

New Zealand is wrapping up its transition to digital television, which is expected to prompt consumers to trade in their old sets for new ones.

Although, RCN has received $1.4 million from the government to set up an e-scrap collection network with more than 50 drop-off points and three recycling centers, a $20 charge for recycling CRT televisions and a $14 charge for bulky computer monitors is causing consumers to opt for the less-costly option of dumping these items, RCN's e-waste general manager Jon Thornhill told Stuff. He also said that some shady companies will take these items for free, strip the valuables and then dump the rest.

In response to the problem, Thornhill said there should be a mandatory product stewardship scheme that requires electronics manufacturers to take back their unwanted products.

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