Keep Recycling Local to benefit our local circular economy and environment

Businesses and environmental groups unite to call for a consistent approach to recycling in NI that results in high quality materials that can be recycled locally

The recyclable materials we collect in Northern Ireland need to be processed and used by local firms here to benefit our local circular economy and the environment.  This was the message today (13th October 2022) at the launch of Keep Recycling Local, a new campaign group launched to highlight the need for a consistent approach to recycling collections that produce high quality materials suitable for remanufacture into new high-end products by Northern Irish companies.

Uniting businesses such as Encirc, Enva and Bryson Recycling, with the support of environmental campaigners Friends of the Earth, Keep Recycling Local is promoting the need for a joined-up approach across Northern Ireland. The campaign is asking local government and councils to adopt policies and collection services that incentivise local reprocessing rather than the export of recyclables. It also wants the public to understand what happens to the recyclables that are collected from their homes.

Northern Ireland exports approximately 90,000 tonnes of recyclables, collected from NI households. Much of this can’t be recycled or used locally because it is poorly sorted and contaminated. At the same time, firms such as Encirc and Enva have to import materials from abroad to supply their plants in Counties Fermanagh and Antrim, respectively.

Commenting on the launch of the campaign, Encirc’s Head of Sustainability, Fiacre O’Donnell, said:

“We pride ourselves on putting sustainability at the heart of what we do at Encirc. We employ over 400 people in County Fermanagh, all working hard each day to innovate on our journey towards Net Zero. However, we’re put at a disadvantage by having to import recyclable materials from other countries which is damaging for the planet.

We have to import because glass collected from households locally is contaminated during collections by being mixed with other materials in “co-mingled” bins, which means councils in turn are having to spend millions shipping these materials as far as India and Thailand. These are materials we could use in our processes, thus lowering the carbon impact of our product, as well as seeing a major reduction in carbon emissions from keeping recycling local. We know there is a better way.”

Outlining the solution to this problem, campaign partner and Enva Director, Barry Phillips, said:

“This is a major problem for Northern Ireland that can all be sorted out pretty easily, by collecting recycling separately rather than mixed together. This will save ratepayers and local businesses millions every year. As the people tasked with recycling these materials, we see on a daily basis that mixing materials during collections, such glass, paper, cardboard, and plastics, simply doesn’t work. It seriously lowers the quality of the materials, and this wouldn’t be the case if we adopted a 3-stream approach of collecting glass; paper and cardboard and other materials such as plastics, cans, and cartons separately.”

Supporting the campaign, Eric Randall, Director of Bryson Recycling, NI’s largest recycling collector said:

“Adopting the 3-stream approach would ensure that 80% of materials collected in Northern Ireland could be recycled locally, compared to the current figure of around 10%. All the glass collected mixed in wheelie bins is exported due to quality issues, and it appears that over 40% is wasted in the sorting process. That could be reduced to 1% if we collected it separately, with everything staying in Northern Ireland for recycling. Only 15% of plastics collected mixed with glass and other materials is recycled here. Adopting a 3-stream approach would increase the amount to around 90%. This will save cash-strapped councils millions each year, provide better value for money for rate payers, save local businesses millions and enable them to be more competitive. Of course, it will also significantly reduce Northern Ireland’s carbon footprint and protect the environment as we won’t be exporting poorly sorted materials to countries that don’t have the infrastructure to deal with the waste they receive. We are ambitious about recycling and want to support Northern Ireland to achieve the highest recycling rates in the UK.”

To find out more information about the campaign or to see how you could get involved, please visit