The tipping point of opinion on TEEP

Neil Grundon, deputy chairman of Grundon Waste Management, has strongly expressed his preference for co-mingled dry waste collections, saying they provide the most practical and cost-effective solution for the majority of customers.

At the same time, he has spoken out against the need for further legislation on the topic, saying it should be left to waste experts to decide how best to meet their customers’ requirements.

“As a commercial waste collector, we have always offered separate collections. For around 60% of our customers however, it’s more practical to collect co-mingled dry recyclables because they simply either don’t have the space for separate bins, or they produce such small quantities of materials that it isn’t practicable to separate them out,” he said.

“What we don’t need is legislation to tell us what to do. Our business is led by what the customer wants and it’s our role to come up with a system which recycles their waste to the best of our ability.”

His comments come ahead of a DEFRA consultation this autumn on TEEP (Technically, Environmentally and Economically Practicable) guidance.

The question of co-mingled versus separate kerbside collections of paper, glass, cans and plastic has become a hot topic.

Previously, the European Commission’s Waste Framework Directive has set a target for separate kerbside collections to be implemented by January 2015.

However, when the UK Government transposed the Directive into UK law in October 2012, it said that co-mingled collections would comply, as long as separated collections are not technically, environmentally and economically practicable (TEEP), and the right quality of recyclate is achieved.

Since then, the campaign for Real Recycling has challenged the interpretation, but a Judicial Review supported co-mingled collections.

Neil is concerned that the TEEP guidance has been moulded for household waste collections, as opposed to commercial waste, and doesn’t take account of facilities such as Grundon’s own Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs), which have been developed specifically for commercial customers.

“We don’t recycle for recycling’s sake, we recycle because it makes environmental and economic good sense,” he said. “It has always been our opinion that it is not economical to run four vehicles for four separate collections, when you can run one and sort out the materials at the MRF.

“When it gets to the point where the carbon emissions from all those vehicles outweigh the carbon emissions from collecting and processing the co-mingled dry waste, then it becomes a nonsense.”

He says that in some commercial operations – for example shopping centres or industrial premises where there are high volumes of specific materials such as cardboard or plastics – having a separate collection can be advantageous and says each commercial customer must be judged on its needs.

“Our recommendation is that if customers have the room they should have separate collections, but where this isn’t possible we should be able to continue to offer co-mingled collection. What we don’t want is to see legislation which makes that decision for us,” he continued.

“There is also the issue that while you might have the space, you then need to provide additional training for staff and ensure that the separation rules are strictly adhered to. If waste is cross-contaminated instead of segregated, then it completely negates the effort everyone is putting in.”

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