Recycling options for types of waste materials
The general public and businesses are increasingly being encouraged or required to recycle waste materials that they produce. If your business recycles and reprocesses waste, this can present opportunities to increase the amount of waste that you handle and to access new markets.
However, you must make sure that your business complies with legislation controlling the environmental impact of waste activities. You may also need to follow standards and protocols if you provide recycled materials for other organisations or consumers.
This guide explains the standards that relate to the recycling of glass, plastic, paper, wood, plastics, tyres, organic matter, aggregates, plasterboard and electrical products. It outlines the opportunities available for recycling different materials, how to maximise income from recycling, ways to successfully market recycling services and provides sources of further information.
Glass recycling options
Glass is a hard, inert material that can be recycled over and over again. Recycled glass can be used in many different ways so presents good opportunities for you to sell recycled materials. It also weighs a lot, making it expensive to dispose of through your usual disposal methods.
Uses for recycled glass
You may be able to use recycled glass in a number of end markets. Recycled glass can be used in:
- road construction as a coarse aggregate substitute
- concrete product manufacture
- trench backfill
- sports turf applications, such as golf course bunkers or as top dressing for fairways
- grit blasting - for example to clean metal of contaminants such as rust and grease
- glass bead manufacture
- brick manufacture as a fluxing agent
Mixed colour container glass or flat glass can also be used in fibreglass insulation manufacture and offers numerous benefits over virgin materials.
If you are intending to start recycling glass, or to expand the amount you recycle and reprocess, you should look into the market conditions for recycled glass materials.
Difficulties with glass recycling
You may want to recycle more glass, but might be concerned about potential difficulties. However, you may be able to resolve these relatively easily:
- Lack of space for glass recycling bins - you may be able to get smaller or differently-shaped bins from your collector. In time you may also be able to use smaller bins for your regular waste. You could consider recycling machines that can crush or reduce the volume of glass waste behind the counter.
- Glass collection costs - glass recycling is cheaper than general waste collections, and this gap is set to widen with future landfill tax increases.
- Lack of time - as long as your collection bins are situated close to your regular bins, recycling glass shouldn't take any longer than your current waste disposal method.
- Staff training - a short refresher course, along with signs at each recycling point explaining what should and shouldn't go into each bin, should ensure that your staff know how to use the bins correctly.
- Noise pollution - if your business has received complaints about the noise caused by tipping glass bottles into and out of bins, you could consider changing the procedure or timing of glass collections.
- Glass colour separation - if possible, it is best to collect glass colours separately, as the glass will be of better quality and more easily recycled. However, some glass collections now collect mixed colours of glass. Check options and costs with you waste contractor.
Recycled glass standards and protocols
The following standards and protocols apply to glass recycling and reprocessing:
- The quality protocol for flat glass contains requirements that prevent a material becoming waste.
- Publicly Available Specification (PAS) 101 provides guidance for businesses collecting and delivering recovered container glass or 'cullet'.
- PAS 102 provides guidance for businesses producing processed glass as a granular media for certain end markets.
Plastic recycling options
There is a high demand for recycled plastic, both from UK manufacturers and from overseas markets. Exports of recovered plastics from the UK have also grown in recent years.
Uses for recycled plastic
Recycled plastic can be used in almost as many applications and products as prime plastic. Examples of uses for recycled plastic include:
- packaging - recycled plastics are increasingly used by retailers and manufacturers
- construction - for products such as damp-proof membrane, drainage pipes, ducting and flooring
- landscaping - walkways, jetties, pontoons, bridges, fences and signs are increasingly being made from recycled plastic
- textiles - polyester fibre, clothing and filling is frequently made from recycled bottles
- street furniture - seating, bins, street signs and planters
- bin liners and refuse sacks - from sources such as pallet wrap, carrier bags and agricultural film
Quality protocols for recycling plastics
Standards and protocols contain criteria that you should aim to meet when recycling plastic. They demonstrate the quality of your processes and products to potential customers. Complying with a quality protocol also means that you do not have to comply with the usual controls on waste, such as using waste transfer notes when you transport the materials.
The quality protocol for non-packaging plastics establishes end-of-waste criteria for the production of secondary raw materials from waste non-packaging plastics.
Paper recycling options
Global trade in recycled paper and recovered paper has grown considerably over the past few years, as countries improve their collection rates. Less-developed countries have increased their demand for recovered paper, meaning that you may be able to tap into the export market for potential growth.
Advantages of paper recycling
The market for recycled paper is increasing as businesses come to realise the benefits:
- potential reductions in their waste collection costs
- a reduction in energy use and carbon dioxide emissions when the paper is produced, increasing their environmental credentials and supporting their corporate social responsibility agenda
If you are intending to start recycling paper, or to expand the amount you recycle and reprocess, you should look into the market conditions for recycled paper materials.
Standards for paper recycling
Publicly Available Specification (PAS) 105 contains good practice for collecting, handling and processing recovered paper for recycling within UK end-markets. Meeting its requirements can help you demonstrate the quality of your processes and products to your customers.
PAS 105 covers:
- how to keep paper clean, fresh and dry
- collection types - sorted, co-mingled and single stream
- how to avoid contamination
- design of storage bays
- dealing with rejected loads
- the definition of common grades and how to grade by description
- educating and encouraging users to recycle their paper
- requirements for materials intended to come into contact with foodstuffs
Wood recycling options
Recycled wood products come from post-consumer and post-industrial sources. Legislation, such as that controlling what can be disposed of in landfill, means that there are opportunities for businesses that recycle wood.
Uses for recycled wood
Good quality timber in whole pieces can be used in a variety of applications - eg joinery, furniture manufacture, packaging and fencing. Waste wood which is not of a high enough quality for these uses may still be recycled into chips or sawdust for use in:
- landscaping products - eg mulches, surfacing material for pathways and play surfaces
- equestrian products
- animal bedding products
Contamination and wood recycling
Wood must be free of any contamination before it can be supplied as recycled product. Many applications for its use will not be available if the wood has been treated with substances such as arsenic-based and copper-based preservatives.
It may often be difficult to know whether reclaimed wood has been treated, and with which substances, especially if the wood is weathered or stained. You should not rely on the testimony of the supplier, especially if they are inexperienced.
Tyre recycling options
Millions of tyres are disposed of each year in the UK according to the government. However, the disposal of tyres to landfill is now banned. This presents a major opportunity for the use of reprocessed tyres.
Uses for recycled tyres
There are a number of end uses for reprocessed tyre rubber, providing a bigger marketplace for your recycled materials. Examples of end uses of recycled tyres include:
- construction, eg roof tiling, acoustic barriers and waterproof membranes
- landscaping, eg walkways and porous piping
- industrial sealers and fillers
- civil engineering, eg sea defences
- retreading or reuse as part-worns
- playground facilities
- sports industry, eg artificial sports tracks
- flooring, eg carpet underlay and matting
- equestrian, eg surfacing
- landfill engineering
- fuel in cement kilns
- transport, eg vehicle parts and rubberised asphalt
If you are intending to start recycling tyres, or to expand the amount you recycle and reprocess, you should look into the market conditions for recycled rubber.
Standards and protocols for tyre recycling
Publicly Available Specification (PAS) 107 provides a specification for producing size-reduced tyre rubber from end-of-life tyres. These can come from road vehicles or from off-road vehicles such as agricultural equipment. You can download an introduction to PAS 107 on tyre materials (PDF, 530K).
British Standard PAS 108 provides a specification for producing compact tyre bales for use in construction.
Recycling organic material
Organic waste is waste material that has been grown or was once part of an animal, such as 'green waste' and food waste.
Types of organic waste recycling
There are four different recycling processes for organic waste:
- Open windrow composting - this is suitable for processing garden waste, but not catering or animal waste.
- In-vessel processing - for processing food and garden waste. This process must comply with the Animal By-Products Regulations which ensure that all meat and animal-origin products meet the treatment standard required to guarantee the protection of the environment and human health.
- Anaerobic digestion - for treating waste water.
- Thermophilic aerobic digestion - treats waste food or other organic materials in a liquid slurry or semi-solid form.
Standards in organic recycling
The Environment Agency and WRAP have developed a quality protocol for compost. The protocol incorporates Publicly Available Specification (PAS) 100 for composted materials and PAS 110 for fertilisers and other products produced by anaerobic digestion. If your business produces compost that meets the quality protocol standard, you will not need to comply with waste controls, such as using a registered waste carrier to transport it.
Recycling electrical products
Electronic and electrical equipment is one of the main types of waste that policymakers are aiming to stop being sent to landfill.
How electrical products are recycled
The four methods for recycling electrical products are:
- equipment dismantling - manually separating reusable components
- mechanical recycling - removing plastic and ferrous material after granulating and shredding
- incineration and refining - recovering metal after combustible material has been incinerated
- chemical recycling - removing precious metals such as gold and silver from printed circuit boards
If you intend to use these or new and innovative methods, you should speak to the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) to check whether they need to regulate your business using a permit or exemption. You can also make sure they are satisfied with any environmental impacts your processes may have. For more information, contact the NIEA Helpline on Tel 0845 302 0008.
You should also look into the market conditions for any recycled materials that you are going to produce.
For more detailed information on recycling waste electrical products see waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE).
Approximately three million tonnes of plasterboard is used in the UK construction industry each year. The amount of plasterboard waste from demolition and refurbishment projects may be more than 1 million tonnes per year.
In addition, plasterboard and other waste gypsum products are hazardous waste and can no longer be put into landfill sites with biodegradable waste. This may increase the amount of plasterboard available for recycling. You can download the recycled gypsum from waste plasterboard quality protocol (PDF, 1.37MB).
The easiest plasterboard to recycle is off-cuts as these are less likely to be contaminated with other materials. Recycled gypsum from waste plasterboard can be used in a variety of applications which currently use gypsum from natural or synthetic sources - such as cement and Plaster of Paris - as well as having a number of uses in the food and toiletries industries.
This could present an opportunity for your business to produce recycled materials, but make sure you investigate the market conditions.
Standards and protocols for recycled plasterboard
Standards and protocols contain criteria that you should aim to meet. They demonstrate the quality of your processes and products to potential customers. Complying with a quality protocol also means that you do not have to comply with the usual controls on waste, such as using waste transfer notes when you transport the materials.
Publicly Available Specification (PAS) 109 sets minimum requirements for the production of recycled gypsum, covering:
- selection, receipt and handling of input materials
- specifications of product grades
- storage, labelling, dispatch and traceability of the products
It also sets out requirements for a quality management system to make sure that recycled gypsum being produced is fit for its intended use.
Approximately 275 million tonnes of aggregates are used each year in the UK as raw construction materials. Of this, around 70 million tonnes are already derived from recycled or secondary sources. The UK is a leading user of these materials in Europe.
There is potential to recycle more aggregates from construction, demolition and excavation wastes that are currently being sent to landfill.
Standards in recycling aggregates
The European Standards for aggregates describe how recycled and secondary aggregates can be used across a broad range of applications. The standards cover aggregates produced from natural, recycled and manufactured materials. It focuses on fitness for purpose and does not discriminate between different resources.
The quality protocol for the production of aggregates from inert waste deals with the production of aggregates from inert construction, demolition and excavation waste.
The protocol sets a benchmark for recycled aggregate production and for demonstrating the point at which a waste material is considered to be fully recovered and so no longer subject to waste regulations.
Maximising your income from recycled materials
For your recycling business to remain profitable over the long term, you should ensure you are fully maximising your recycling revenue streams.
Waste collection fees are always likely to exceed the revenue from the sale of recycled materials. However it is still worthwhile maximising the income from the materials you produce.
Ways to increase revenue when recycling
You can boost recycling revenue through collecting higher value clean materials by:
- encouraging customers to separate clean office paper from cardboard and lower grade and contaminated papers
- separating glass by colour in the hospitality sector
- collecting plastic bottles, aluminium cans and steel tins
Where you are adding a recycling service to an existing general trade waste service, you should take care to avoid losing income from trade collections where the recycling service is cheaper. These losses will tend to be offset, however, by:
- a decrease in waste disposal costs to landfill
- the potential to generate energy from waste
- additional income from material sales
How to reduce recycling contamination
Contamination often involves food waste and other non-recyclable items. Where recycling collections are contaminated it will reduce your ability to sell the recovered materials.
Speak to managers and staff at the premises to explain that contaminated waste will not be collected. You can also use transparent sacks for bag collections and ask crews to check bins for contamination before they are loaded onto the vehicle. If contamination persists and can't easily be identified at the point of collection, you may have to levy a surcharge to recover your sorting and disposal costs and to deter repeated incidents.
Depending on the markets you have, you will need to be careful about contamination with regard to paper grades - for example under EN643, the European paper grading system - and specifications such as PAS 103 for plastic.
How to market your recycling services
There are a number of techniques your recycling business could use to reach potential new customers.
How to promote recycling services
Marketing options for recycling include:
- Mailshots by post or email. If you use bought business mailing lists, it is important to ensure that these are as up to date as possible with valid contact details for key decision-makers.
- Advertising in the press, radio, billboards and even television. While useful in terms of raising awareness of your services, WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) trials have shown this to be less cost-effective than other marketing techniques.
- Public relations and press releases. As with advertising, this may help increase awareness of your business but may not lead to many new enquiries.
- Collection vehicle branding to promote your business' services. This is relatively cheap and is important in presenting a professional image to current and potential customers.
- Online marketing via a dedicated website or search engines ads. A well-designed website can be a relatively low-cost way of attracting new customers, but you will need to make sure it can be found by search engines.
A marketing campaign will be much more effective if you follow it up quickly with a sales campaign to persuade potential new customers to sign up. There are two options for this:
- telesales, which can be effective with a strong and experienced sales team in place
- face-to-face sales, which may be more appropriate where the sales team is inexperienced or if you are selling a particularly new or innovative service
You should be prepared to chase potential customers and close the sale. You should take care when to contact organisations, avoiding busy times. Pubs and shops will be busy at lunch time and early evening. Offices tend to be approachable all day apart from lunch time and after 17.00.