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Axion and Zero Waste Scotland report reveals potential for stuffing material recycling

Local schemes could offer potential recycling solutions for stuffing materials from bedding and furniture as the waste industry shifts its focus to tackling more difficult to recycle waste streams arising in smaller quantities.

This comes from a recent report, thought to be the first of its type, published by resource recovery specialist Axion Consulting and Zero Waste Scotland.

While there appears to be limited opportunity at present for the recycling of stuffing materials, such as synthetic fibres, foams or natural feather and down, the report concludes that additional trials and more research could assess the commercial viability of implementing new recycling and collection schemes for these materials.

The main challenges which have been identified concern the logistics of waste collections given Scotland’s broad geographical spread, processing issues, and securing end markets.

Commenting on the report’s conclusions, Axion’s Project Consultant Liz Morrish says though some opportunities exist for recycling duvets and pillows, the project serves as a ‘stepping stone’ in raising further awareness of these technologies and reprocessing options.

Textiles, seen as a valuable resource stream, are a high priority within the Scottish Government’s Zero Waste Plan, so the research project’s findings will be used to determine future development opportunities in collection, processing or manufacturing infrastructure in Scotland.

Iain Gulland, Director, Zero Waste Scotland says: "This report reveals that there is great potential in extending the life of filling from household items. It’s important that we recognise the real value of this material and work towards making the recycling of material stuffing a viable opportunity."

Liz emphasises the need for greater understanding of the complexities of this waste stream and its processing requirements, plus further trials and assessments to identify the extent of recycling barriers in Scotland, particularly considering collection logistics and the hygiene perception issues surrounding post-consumer stuffing waste.

She says: "Few opportunities exist to increase the reuse of stuffing materials beyond current systems. Established reprocessing options for post-industrial stuffing waste include the use of polyurethane for manufacturing reconstituted foam and making felt (shoddy) from polyester fibre."

Liz adds: "Whilst there are many issues surrounding the recycling or re-use of this waste stream, including those of quantity, quality and contaminants, further research could open up new potential routes for these waste materials that are currently mainly consigned to landfill.

"The waste industry is increasingly focusing on finding sustainable waste management solutions for a wider range of more complex, lower tonnage waste streams. And this project is a positive example of the sector’s growing interest in this area."

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