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Life after lockdown and recycling

The Casepak team can be forgiven for thinking Christmas has arrived earlier this year.

Three and half months on since lockdown was introduced, we are seeing increased levels of material enter the MRF. In fact, we’ve experienced a 20% rise of recyclables at the facility – levels on par with what we encounter during typical Christmas periods.

Whilst the team continues to work to get the very best out of materials – as we always have done – the current situation has proved challenging with regards to higher levels of contaminated items being mixed with recyclable goods. From reports of increased fly tipping to a rise in contamination levels, the Coronavirus crisis has had an extraordinary impact on the sector. Indeed, contamination was a subject tackled in the May blog, and it’s important to highlight the ongoing issue once again.

The rise in black bag waste mixed in with recyclables, along with prohibited items (such as textiles and garden waste) are just a couple of examples of contamination experienced at the MRF on a daily basis. Some increase is to be expected, given that far more people continue to spend time at home during lockdown, and we would expect some impact on operations and the types of material going into their bins.

Despite these challenges, Casepak continues to go above and beyond to ensure the highest volume of materials can be recovered for reprocessing and recycling. We do not compromise on quality at Casepak. Therefore, to tackle contamination we have slowed down our machine operating times, which has enabled us to discard of any rogue material caught up in otherwise good quality recyclables. This new operating system has meant that we’ve had to adjust quickly to a new way of working, but slowing machinery down has allowed us to maintain the level of quality required for material to go on and be reprocessed into new items, closing the recycling loop.

We have also seen an increase in glass and cardboard at the MRF, presumably as a result of more people drinking alcohol at home and shopping online, and we are working hard to recover these important materials despite the increased presence of contaminants.

Daily and weekly contact with our local authority partners regarding the quality of recyclables we are receiving has allowed them to target problem areas within their communities, and highlight types of rogue material found in recycling bins. Many of our councils are using social media and their websites to share information about how to recycle responsibly and are very proactive in promoting the correct messaging.

Protecting our MRF staff, visitors and drivers is key and we’ve continued to follow government advice to keep everyone safe. Social distancing whilst at work, sanitation stations and compulsory temperature checks have been introduced. We’ve also been operating with a paperless weighbridge system to reduce driver and staff interaction, as well as cutting down on non-essential staff meetings. All measures are in place with current government guidelines and will continue for as long as necessary and certainly for the foreseeable future.

As lockdown continues to ease and our messages about how to recycle right filter through to communities, it will be interesting to see where the next three months takes us and how contamination levels are impacted. We will continue to work with our local authority partners on this. At present, higher volumes of material appears to be the ‘new normal’ and we will continue to provide the very best service, and adapt our operations accordingly, to recycle the highest possible quantity of quality materials.

For more information about recycling best practice, please see our Recycling Guide here.