ReQIP - Recycling Quality Information Point

ReQIP  - Recycling Quality Information Point


The Resource Association seeks to work with all parts of the recycling supply chain to improve the consistency and quality of recyclate available to UK reprocessors and for legal export to markets in other countries.

All parts of the recycling supply chain have important roles to play.  While the requirement of the end user are critically important in ensuring a healthy and efficient manufacturing base that can use recyclate, this needs resource collectors, MRF sorters, local authorities and the general public to play their part and we hope appreciate the importance of quality to the manufacturer.

Our ReQIP project brings together information from a wide range of reprocessors about their quality requirements for recyclate received by them, and highlights what they class as ‘prohibited materials’ which affect the integrity of their raw material.

It is designed to provide information of use to local authorities and companies servicing the C&I sector as they determine the best ways to collect recycling in their local area, in the absence of any formal guidance from Government in England.  It should be read alongside other valuable sources of information, all gathered within the WRAP Resource Huband including the Waste Regulations Route Map.

The project was co-ordinated by Peter Mansfield and Associates Ltd on behalf of the Resource Association, and we are grateful to Peter for his invaluable work. 

Defining ‘high quality recycling’

In the EU we have clear policy goals to improve the quality and quantity of recycling as we strive to achieve a ‘European recycling society’. This is articulated clearly in the revised Waste Framework Directive requirements for separate collection (Article 11). Although there isn’t a clear definition of what constitutes ‘high quality recycling’ the Directive carries a clear statement on this – Article 11, Clause 1, Paragraph 2 states:

“Member States shall take measures to promote high quality recycling and, to this end, shall set up separate collections of waste where technically, environmentally and economically practicable and appropriate to meet the necessary quality standards for the relevant recycling sectors.”

This Information Point provides the above ‘necessary quality standards for the relevant recycling sectors’ and carries the support of the major UK reprocessors of key recyclates.

The Resource Association defines quality recycling as material that can be collected and re-processed into the same or a similar product – an integral element of the ‘circular economy’. However, in order to achieve this, raw material suppliers need to meet the Quality Specifications given here.

Contamination: The enemy of recycling

To promote high quality recycling, The Resource Association commissioned a short film to highlight the challenge of contaminated recyclates for UK reprocessors and to promote a high quality approach to recycling collection. Entitled “Contamination – The Enemy of Recycling”, the video features Association members from across the material streams describing the daily reality of poor and inconsistent quality of incoming recyclates and what can be done about it.

Contamination of recyclate remains a major issue for the British reprocessing industries. As mentioned in the film, it costs UK industry at least 50 million pounds a year to clean up poor quality material that arrives at the reprocessors factory gates. The video illustrates in some detail the issues the UK manufacturing industry faces from the material that comes from many British households.

Major contributors to the recycling supply chain are losing out - local authorities are missing out on value, the recycling industry bears a cost of clean-up and this slows the investment and job creation potential of our industry at a time when we need it more than ever.   The Resource Association want to assist councils in understanding better the impact of contamination and importantly, what we can do together to improve this.

Representative of UK reprocessing

At launch in June 2014, the project co-ordinated the approved input of 36 companies and industry associations, representing the quality specifications information for annual UK recyclate reprocessing of 12,917,800 tonnes of key materials. This includes the range of materials subject to the attention of legislation on separate collection (paper, metals, glass and plastics), as well as wood and green wastes and others such as textiles and batteries.

The project will remain a live project, and any reprocessors wishing to add their information to the project are welcome to do so. Contact the Resource Association office for more details on how to participate.

Improving information flow between local authorities and reprocessors

Many local authorities have fairly limited direct contact with the reprocessing sector as a result of contracting out collection and sorting services to other companies.  We hope that this information will prove useful to local authorities in refreshing interest in the impact that collection and sorting of recyclate has at the point of the end user, and reminding everybody involved that recycling does not take place until material is properly reprocessed by an end user – collection is an important intermediary point in the process.

It represents the agreed view of a significant element of the relevant UK reprocessing sectors, but does not substitute for direct discussions with individual companies about their own detailed requirements.  All of the Resource Association’s reprocessor members have published information on their individual and industry Quality Specifications, alongside many others that have supported this project.  At launch, the project was publicly supported by:

Alliance for Beverage Cans and Environment (ACE-UK)
Aylesford Newsprint
Lawrence M Barry & Co
Biffa Polymers
Closed Loop Recycling
ECO Plastics
Environcomp Global
G&P Batteries
Huhtamaki (Lurgan)
Lower Reule Bioenergy
MTM Plastics
Novelis Recycling
Palm Recycling
Regain Polymers
Renewable Energy Association (Organics Group)
Salvation Army Trading Co
DS Smith Recycling
Smurfit Kappa Recycling
White Moss Horticulture
Wood Recyclers Association

The project has published three key elements: a summary Quality Specifications Table; Sample Specification Documents; and a Contamination Value Chart.  Read in conjunction, they provide information on the detailed quality requirements by materials sector for UK reprocessors, and highlight those materials that are detrimental to the ‘integrity’ of the raw materials supplied to reprocessors.  This by necessity is a generalised view, but it is based on detailed information from many reprocessors and the experienced view of Peter Mansfield and Associates Ltd as long standing industry experts of good repute.

Quality Specification Table

Sample Specifications

Contamination Value Chart

Together, all the documents spell out clearly what UK recycling industries need and can tolerate in terms of contamination to their primary feedstock requirement, and allow the reader to make judgements based on your desire to maximise value from recyclate collected.

What they do not do – and cannot do – is define preferred collection systems for the maximising of high quality recycling.  The UK Government has defined separate collection in a particular way through transposition of the rWFD and this has been tested in the courts.  Further guidance from Government on what constitutes technically, environmentally, and economically practicable (TEEP) has been made available in Wales but not in England – this information provision is our contribution to the challenge set by English Ministers at Defra to industry to come up with advice for local authorities on this issue.  No single outside body is qualified or mandated to provide formal guidance  on what constitutes TEEP, all we can do is provide the best information we have available to assist in informing the decision making process local authorities have to go through  to ensure they have  Directive compliant collection services.

Continued engagement

We are committed to keeping this Information Point live and up to date.  We encourage reprocessors not represented to add their information on Quality Specifications, and as updates are made we will issue public notices to that effect.

A number of market sectors are in their relative infancy (such as nappy recycling, plastic bag recycling) so there are no detailed specifications that are available to publish on this site. However, as this changes, we hope to make more sample specifications available. If groups of local authorities or collection companies wish to engage more directly, we are very happy to respond to meeting invitations and work with all relevant parties in the supply chain to have more direct communication with reprocessors. 

Together we hope our efforts to improve recyclate quality will succeed, through better information sharing such as this, and dialogue at all levels to share challenges and opportunities.

Updated 9th September 2014