'One-box' recycling doing more harm than good

7th August 2007
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Throwing all your recycling in one box may seem like a good idea, but it is threatening the future of European-based paper recycling, according to a leading industry source.

Anders Hildeman, Chairman of the European Recovered Paper Council, told online site LetsRecycle.com that 'commingled' waste collections, where all recyclable waste is collected in one box, were leading to 'high levels of contamination', which were damaging paper mills and leading to some badly mixed paper waste being landfilled.

Hildeman also worries that continued support for commingled waste collections will lead to greater quantities of recyclables being shipped to developing countries for sorting, where labour is cheap and expensive computer sorting technology not necessary. Hildeman maintains that this is not only unfair to a European paper industry with a good environmental track-record but also makes no sense from a carbon emissions standpoint:
'Surely the place to recycle should be guided by the environmental impact, including the impact of transport?,' he said.

The International Association of the Deinking Industry (INGEDE) has taken the step of writing to Leeds City Council, asking them not to collect commingled recyclable waste because of the damage done by broken glass to paper pulping machines. The Association's spokesman, Axel Fischer, said that the organisation was calling on all communities and local authorities to reverse the trend towards commingled collections, which he described as 'unsustainable and ecologically counterproductive.'

This article first appeared in the Ecologist August 2007

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