Unmixed message8 June 2012
Alupro executive director Rick Hindley tells David Longfield that increased targets for recycled metals are welcome, but the UK’s figures need to be assessed in a clearer context
In March this year, Alupro – the Aluminium Packaging Recycling Organisation, which represents the leading producers and reprocessors in the UK – welcomed a UK Government announcement, following consultation, that statutory packaging recycling targets for aluminium would be increased by 3% year on year, beginning in 2013 to 2017.
In its position as both the voice of the industry on issues of government policy and legislative development, and spearheading the industry’s efforts to meet recycling obligations for aluminium packaging, Alupro at the same time cautioned that the targets should continue to be reviewed.
Of particular concern to the organisation’s executive director Rick Hindley is the continued inclusion in waste arising figures of aluminium occurring in composite packaging, such as aseptic cartons – a matter left unresolved by the consultation.
The UK’s implementation of the EU Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive (94/62/EC), as relates to the treatment of aluminium used in composites and laminates, remains out of kilter with the rest of Europe, says Hindley.
“The directive clearly states that where there is a dominant material in a composite and laminate material, the full obligation should go to that material,” he says. “So if you take the case of a Tetra Pak, for example – which has paper and board, plastics and aluminium in it – according to the Directive, the weight of the aluminium should be added on to the weight of the paper, because you cannot mechanically separate it. But the UK chose effectively to report the aluminium separately and add it on to the aluminium sales figure.”
This has the effect of over-inflating the aluminium waste stream figure, meaning the real (aluminium) recycling rate is under-reported.
“The UK is the only country in Europe that’s chosen to do it in that way,” says Hindley. “What that actually means is that you cannot compare the UK’s aluminium recycling performance with any other country in Europe on a like for like basis.”
Based on the official 2010 figure of 42% for aluminium packaging recycled in the UK, Hindley says that if current increases in recycling performance were continued, the UK would currently be reporting a recycling rate of “50% or more” if performance were measured based on the same interpretation of the Directive as in the rest of Europe.
“We recognise that the availability of data in this area is not good, so we can understand why the Government has said they need to look at the data before making a decision. We would have liked it to be resolved once and for all, but I think we can understand the Government’s position, and at least now it is recognised as an issue, which hopefully can be resolved this year.”
Also, says Hindley, if the Government goes ahead with the proposal and does remove the laminates and composites aluminium figures from the UK aluminium waste stream, it will be essential that targets are reviewed and rebalanced at that time: “Otherwise we’re going to have targets that aren’t realistic.”
Now funded jointly by the aluminium and steel sectors, Alupro’s Metal Matters programme (targeting increased collection of metal packaging at kerbside) alongside its Every Can Counts initiative (394 tonnes of additional metal captured away from the home in 2010), was highlighted as best practice in the UK Government’s waste policy document issued last year.
Launched on 6 January, the most recent roll-out of the programme encompasses a fully integrated campaign hitting half the population in Northern Ireland through 11 local authorities. “A leaflet was sent at the beginning of the campaign to 400,000 households,” says Hindley. “When we started, only 30% of the metal packaging available in the households was being recovered.”
The total campaign cost is £104,000, of which £68,000 has come directly from the NI Department of Environment – a relatively modest average cost of about 26p per household. “If you assume that we get a minimum 13% increase in the metal collection volumes as a result of it – hopefully a conservative estimate – the value of additional material collected, just over 300 tonnes, is around £118,000. So your return on investment is 11 months. If you then factor in the savings in landfill and collection costs, you then bring that payback down to seven or eight months.
“And so we can demonstrate to local authorities, or their waste management contractors, that if you invest in this, the payback period is pretty impressive – and once you’ve paid it back, you’re only going to make incremental revenues.
“So at a time when local authorities are focusing on value, it really is a model which, hopefully, should be easy for them to implement, and at a time when they’re squeezed financially, it makes good commercial sense.”
Rick Hindley Rick Hindley