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Diverting cardboard from green waste brings economical and environmental benefits

Local authorities who collect household cardboard with green waste for composting are missing out on revenue and denying the UK manufacturing industry of a valuable resource, warns paper recycler Smurfit Kappa Recycling. Together with the Organics Recycling Group (previously AfOR) it is urging councils to collect paper and cardboard separately from green waste, wherever possible.

Ian Halson, business development manager for local authorities, Smurfit Kappa Recycling, explains the economic benefits of collecting cardboard separately: "Gate fees for garden waste are today around £25 per tonne and upwards, so any tonnage of cardboard waste that is diverted from composting offers considerable scope for savings. What’s more many reprocessors will pay councils for the cardboard, which is a valuable recyclable resource. This is a win-win situation, generating additional revenue for local authorities while helping the UK recovered paper industry to become self-sufficient."

Furthermore the Organics Recycling Group warns that including cardboard in green waste can adversely affect the quality of compost, particularly in the winter months when the volumes of plant-based material naturally drop off and the relative proportion of cardboard increases.

"The inclusion of cardboard and paper within green waste collections is not a practice which the Organics Recycling Group condones," says Jeremy Jacobs, REA’s Technical Director. "There is an inevitable inclusion of non-compostable materials within this comingled feedstock, such as plastic, cellophane, staples, tape to name a few. In addition, much of the cardboard will be laminated or coated which reduces its ability to degrade within a typical 8-10 week aerobic composting process."

"The output from collections of comingled green waste and cardboard collections will also lead to lower quality compost which requires significant additional screening and wind sifting to remove the contaminants and additional cost to the processor that this processing incurs," Jeremy Jacobs adds.

As a result of the revised EU Waste Framework Directive, it is probable that local authorities will not be able to count the amounts of waste materials sent to composting towards their recycling performances, unless the resulting compost complies with the PAS 100 and the Quality Protocol: 2011 specification, in which the upper limits for certain contaminants have been made more stringent.

Keen to assist councils in choosing the most environmentally sustainable recycling solutions, Smurfit Kappa Recycling has published a leaflet outlining five reasons to separate cardboard from green waste. It says:

Diverting cardboard from green waste can make significant savings on gate fees and captures a valuable resource;
Smurfit Kappa Recycling can offer a dedicated and regular household collection service from the curtilage;
It is likely that local authorities will not be able to count the amount of waste materials sent to composting towards their recycling performance, unless the resulting compost complies with the PAS 100 and the Quality Protocol:2011 specification;
Defra has highlighted that recycling paper back into new paper products is the preferred option, as it is the most environmentally sustainable. (Guidance on applying the Waste Hierarchy, Defra June 2011);
The Organics Recycling Group recommends that wherever possible paper and cardboard waste are collected separately from green waste.

Smurfit Kappa recycles around 500,000 tonnes every year of recovered paper and cardboard from the UK waste stream into new corrugated packaging material that supports UK manufacturers, retailers and exporters. With its own nationwide collection infrastructure, the company can offer a dedicated and regular household collection service from the curtilage. It can also provide bring banks for recycling of mixed cardboard and paper.

As an integrated company which undertakes all parts of the recycling process from collection through to the manufacture of packaging, Smurfit Kappa is able to support long-term agreements that can insulate local authorities from the ups and downs of the markets to provide a consistent income stream. The company is also able to provide a fully transparent audit trail for all collected material.

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