Quality Will Drive The Circular Economy

Peter Clayson, head of government and community affairs, DS Smith, says let’s be part of a successful circular economy that is driven by providing high specification recycled materials…

As a major European packaging company, DS Smith is well placed to see how vital it is that we continue to improve the quality of recycled material in the market.

Our core business is the collection of paper and card for recycling, which we supply in to our paper mills to make high performing packaging papers, which in turn are supplied into our packaging production plants. As well as feeding our own closed loop sustainable packaging cycle, we also provide paper for recycling to a global network of our paper mill partners.

In many ways, that is the circular economy in action.

But the quality of the recycling we collect is influenced by a whole manor of factors Whether it is badly designed products that are hard to recycle, customers putting the wrong materials in the wrong bin, or collection systems that contaminate, this all leads to a poorer quality feedstock for us to work with.

It seems that there is increasingly a move towards solving all of these. Regulation and legislation such as the UK Resources & Waste Strategy and the Circular Economy Package in the European Union, should help us to have better designed products for recyclability, and give local authorities more funding for communications and improved collection systems.

At each point in the circular supply chain, responsibility needs to be taken for ensuring that the product is easily recyclable.

In the recycling sector, we have a role to play too, by optimising the way we process the material so that it produces the perfect feedstock for manufacturers.

I was therefore encouraged to see that The Recycling Association (TRA), along with CCIC London, has developed a quality control system that will lead to inspection of material at the depot level.

A quality control system is vital for the circular economy, because it will mean the recycling sector is providing an efficient feedstock for manufacturing into new products that ideally will then be easily recyclable.

As a company that has a 9 depots across the UK , this has meant quite a lot of our employees  have needed to attend the seminars organised by TRA and CCIC London. Although it isn’t easy for a major business like ours to co-ordinate this, it is well worth the effort for the benefits it will bring.

To add to that, in conjunction with CCIC we have enhanced our already rigorous quality inspection processes to be even morerobust. This has enabled us to deal with the challenge of the increased quality requirements that we hope are here to stay.

A quality control system is vital for the circular economy, because it will mean the recycling sector is providing an efficient feedstock for manufacturing into new products that ideally will then be easily recyclable.

Although initially aimed at meeting China’s inspection regime, this quality control system could easily become the industry standard for UK, European and other Asian destinations.

DS Smith has been at the forefront of improving quality for many years now, and measures like these are an essential tool for doing that.

It is also encouraging that most of the recycling industry has united around this drive, with more than 600 people having attended the seminars. It shows there is a real desire to improve the quality of material.

We are making huge progress in the UK on quality. For the sake of our economy and our environment, let’s be part of a successful circular economy that is driven by providing high specification recycled materials that can be manufactured into  new products.

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