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Recyclate Quality Action Plan - Consultation Paper

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3. What is 'high quality recycling'?

10. Section 34 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 as amended by the Waste (Scotland) Regulations 2012 requires that all waste holders take "reasonable steps to promote high quality recycling". Evidence shows there are greater environmental and economic benefits to closed loop recycling where a product is used, discarded, captured, and then the component materials recycled into a new product of similar functionality which can itself be used, discarded and captured, to be recycled again, continuously cycling the material resource though the supply chain. Examples include;

  • the use of recovered glass cullet in re-melt applications to create new glass products rather than for aggregate in construction;
  • the use of recovered plastic to produce, for example, new food and drinks containers rather than construction products;
  • the use of recovered paper for the production of new paper products rather than other uses such as animal bedding and insulation.

11. These closed loop applications represent Scottish Government's interpretation of 'high quality' recycling and the design and operation of waste management systems must prioritise these preferred outcomes. The Waste Hierarchy Guidance provides further details for a range of common recyclable materials.

12. Generally speaking, these 'high quality' applications require high quality materials in order to be viable. Supply chains, from producer onwards, must work together to maximise the production of high quality material capable of meeting the standards required by those that reprocess materials in 'high quality' applications. Figure 1 shows the how actions along the supply chain can influence material quality and this action plan seeks to address those risks.

Figure 1 - Factors influencing contamination and material quality

Figure 1 - Factors influencing contamination and material quality

13. Recycling services that deliver high quality materials can also help increase public confidence and participation in recycling activities. Householders and businesses want to know that the action they are taking is making a genuine contribution towards protecting the environment and sustainable economic growth. If it transpires that material collected for recycling is sent to landfill, or worse still, illegally exported, then this could undermine confidence and damage efforts to increase recycling rates.

14. Clarity and certainty around the quality of recycled materials placed on the market will also help send the right market signal to the UK reprocessing sector that will help create the confidence needed to invest in the expansion of the Scotland's, and the UK reprocessing sector, a sector that will become increasingly important as the drive toward a more efficient use of resources and more sustainable product use and design continues.