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Redefining packaging waste is not a waste of time

Latest News August 25, 2017 12:46 pm

Last month, trade associations representing companies operating with used packaging, published new guidance surrounding the assessment and classification of waste packaging. The Environment Agency, Natural Resources Wales and Scottish Environment Protection Agency have welcomed the guidance and agreed to its adoption in England, Wales and Scotland. It’s welcome news for all of us, as it will encourage reuse over recycling, which is the most cost-effective and environmentally friendly option.

The new rules are pretty meaty, but essentially used packaging with the potential to be reused should no longer be considered waste. Instead, it should be seen as a resource to help reduce the volume of waste, as well as making the most of existing products until the true end of their useful life.

The legislation has a clear purpose, to assess, “…whether packaging to be taken off site is waste or not… and whether it should be classified as hazardous or non-hazardous.”

Formerly, there was a big emphasis on the original user of the waste item, or more accurately, the item no longer required by them, being the one to determine whether it was or wasn’t waste. But with this legislative update, any packaging item still intended for its original use, such as a wooden pallet for transporting goods, will not be considered waste, regardless of whether the previous owner has any further use of it. This is unless they intend to recycle it, in which case it should still be handled appropriately at a treatment facility.

For example, if you have a good pallet but have finished with it yourself, why should it be shredded into woodchip to be recycled into something else, when it can be reused by someone else for its original purpose? Think about the way you use cups and mugs. After a nice cuppa, you wouldn’t dream of smashing the cup and recycling the clay! No; you simply wash it and store it in the cupboard ready for its next use. Thinking like this, it’s easy to understand that the effort, energy and cost of recycling packaging is far greater than the quick inspection and simple repair required for its reuse.

This subtle but powerful change in perception is long overdue in our industry, as lots of what has previously been classified as waste is now non-waste, and can therefore be more easily reused. Reuse is critical as it requires so little energy and no consumption of raw materials compared to the destruction, melting and re-forming of materials under recycling.

Recycling is also great for the environment, but it is a lot more complex than simply reusing used packaging. That’s where RPS is able to help. We look after the entire collection pallet process for you, taking the hassle out of national pallet management. To find out more tweet us @RPS_Limited, or give us a call on 01642 465556.

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