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Circulus-Berkel: "Source separation creates awareness"

“Europeans produce about 26 million tonnes of plastic waste every year, with only 30% being recycled. It’s been predicted that waste volume will have doubled by 2030. We’re faced with an enormous challenge. Municipalities and the government have to take charge.”

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Those are the words of Michiel Westerhoff, strategy and development manager at Circulus-Berkel. This organisation provides waste management services to eight municipalities around Apeldoorn, an area with about 440,000 inhabitants. 

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"And even though the Netherlands is leading the way in Europe, much more needs to be done to reduce this growing dependence on fossil resources in our consumption. Municipalities and government have an important responsibility here, together with producers."

Circulus-Berkel is strongly committed to separate waste collection. In addition to usual waste streams, such as paper and PMD, it introduced the BEST bag, for books, e-wares, toys and textiles. Hard plastics are separated at recycling centres and processed into new raw materials by Van Werven.

Because inhabitants have been informed and made aware of the benefits of source separation, residual waste volumes have gone down by more than 50% in the region over the past 15 years. On average, local residents produced 131 kg of residual waste in 2016. This has to be reduced this to less than 100kg by 2020, and it looks like that goal will be met. 

Toewerken naar een circulaire economie

“We’re working towards a circular economy. The most important reason to pay attention to source separation is the ensuing quality of the new raw material. Post-separation installations for residual waste improve, but simply cannot equal source separation in terms of quality.”

Besides, Westerhoff believes, source separation creates awareness. “Post-separation implies that it doesn’t matter that we just throw all our waste onto a single heap. However, we need everyone to realise that change is necessary: that means producers, the packaging industry, the government, municipalities and consumers alike.”

The challenges set by the Dutch government and the European Union will have a major impact the plastic recycling. This is a key stream that will be at the centre of attention in the near future. The EU has shown it has far-reaching ambitions for this waste stream, especially for plastics producers. As such, says Westerhoff, you’ll see the demand for recyclate increase, which will make it more interesting for municipalities to start collecting this stream separately.

“We’re working towards a circular economy. The most important reason to pay attention to source separation is the ensuing quality of the new raw material. Post-separation installations for residual waste improve, but simply cannot equal source separation in terms of quality.”

Michiel Westerhoff

Input quality

Input quality is a major determining factor for feasibility. Westerhoff indicates that hard plastics collection by municipalities need not cost any money at the moment, but it doesn’t bring in any money either. “Careful, accurate collection is key, though. You have to start by helping people separate their waste properly at recycling centres: once waste makes its way into the wrong container, there’s nothing you can do.”

If employees at recycling centres are capable of distinguishing between various kinds of hard plastics, you can make a lot of headway in terms of quality. 

“The result of inaccurate collection is that a lot of waste that cannot be processed

Cooperating towards success

“In a circular economy, everyone in the chain will have a role to play”, says Westerhoff. “In order to take on the challenge properly, you have to cooperate with other parties interested in innovation, partners that will help you pioneer. Partners that can help you improve processes, such as collection and sorting methods. Parties that work together to ensure that more waste is turned into raw materials, and that the quality of these raw materials keeps increasing. And ultimately, you want this to create more support for waste awareness. 

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