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Post-consumer plastic packaging waste in England: Assessing the yield
of multiple collection-recycling schemes
John N. Hahladakis
, Phil Purnell, Eleni Iacovidou, Costas A. Velis
, Maryann Atseyinku
School of Civil Engineering, University of Leeds, Woodhouse Lane, LS2 9JT Leeds, United Kingdom
Received 8 July 2017
Revised 22 January 2018
Accepted 6 February 2018
Available online 10 February 2018
Waste collection schemes
The European Commission (EC) recently introduced a ‘Circular Economy Package’, setting ambitious recy-
cling targets and identifying waste plastics as a priority sector where major improvements are necessary.
Here, the authors explain how different collection modalities affect the quantity and quality of recycling,
using recent empirical data on household (HH) post-consumer plastic packaging waste (PCPP) collected
for recycling in the devolved administration of England over the quarterly period July-September 2014.
Three main collection schemes, as currently implemented in England, were taken into account: (i) kerb-
side collection (KS), (ii) household waste recycling centres (HWRCs) (also known as ‘civic amenity sites’),
and (iii) bring sites/banks (BSs). The results indicated that: (a) the contribution of KS collection scheme in
recovering packaging plastics is higher than HWRCs and BBs, with respective percentages by weight (wt
%) 90%, 9% and 1%; (b) alternate weekly collection (AWC) of plastic recyclables in wheeled bins, when col-
lected commingled, demonstrated higher yield in KS collection; (c) only a small percentage (16%) of the
total amount of post-consumer plastics collected in the examined period (141 kt) was ﬁnally sent to
reprocessors (22 kt); (c) nearly a third of Local Authorities (LAs) reported insufﬁcient or poor data; and
(d) the most abundant fractions of plastics that ﬁnally reached the reprocessors were mixed plastic bot-
tles and mixed plastics.
Crown Copyright Ó2018 Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY license
Since the Packaging and Packaging Waste (PPW) Directive came
into force (Directive 94/62/EC), European Union (EU) member
states have made major investments in their recycling systems,
e.g. collection schemes, sorting and reprocessing equipment and
infrastructure. However, although the recovery and recycling tar-
gets set in the PPW Directive are similar for all member states,
the operational strategies for achieving them vary considerably
from country to country (da Cruz et al., 2014a, 2014b; European
Commission, 2006; Marques et al., 2014). According to the
extended producer responsibility (EPR) principle (an overriding
principle of the PPW Directive), all economic operators placing
packaging on the market are responsible for its management and
recovery (OECD, 2001). Producers of packaging waste can transfer
this responsibility to another entity (e.g. a Green Dot company)
and by paying a ﬁnancial contribution earn the right to put a
‘‘Green Dot’’ trademark on their packaging.
The PPW Directive and associated recycling targets updated in
2004 (European Commission, 2004), to encourage packaging
re-use and recycling, do not stray from the original objectives. In
particular, the Directive speciﬁes essential requirements for the
design, production, and commercialization of packaging that
enable their reuse, recovery and recycling, minimizing their impact
on the environment.
0956-053X/Crown Copyright Ó2018 Published by Elsevier Ltd.
This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
Abbreviations: approx, Approximately; AWC, Alternated weekly collection; BSs,
Bring sites; C&I, Commercial & industrial; ca., Circa (Latin term for ‘‘approximately”
or ‘‘about”); Coll, Collected; Cx, Commingled with a separate stream of glass (g),
ﬁber/paper (q), plastic (p) within the commingled; Cxx, Commingled with two
separate streams within the commingled; DEFRA, Department for environment,
food and rural affairs; EC, European Commission; EfW, Energy from waste; EPR,
Extended producer responsibility; EU, European Union; FCM, Food contact mate-
rials; HDPE, High-density polyethylene; HH, Household; HWRC, Household waste
recycling centres; KS, Kerbside; KSS, Kerbside sort; kt, Kilotonnes; LAs, Local
authorities; MBT, Mechanical-biological treatment; MC, Multi-commingled (more
than three streams within the commingled); MRFs, Material recovery facilities;
NPP, Nuclear power plant; PCPP, Post-consumer plastic packaging; PET, Poly-
ethylene terephthalate; PO, Polyoleﬁns; PPW, Packaging and packaging waste
directive; PRFs, Plastic recovery facilities; PTTs, Pots, tubs and trays; RCV, Refuse
collection vehicle; RECOUP, Recycling of used plastics (Limited); UK, United
Kingdom; WCAs, Waste collection authorities; WDAs, Waste disposal authorities;
WDF, Waste data ﬂow; WFD, Waste framework directive; WRAP, Waste and
resources action programme; wt%, percentage by weight.
E-mail addresses: firstname.lastname@example.org (J.N. Hahladakis), C.Velis@leeds.ac.uk
Waste Management 75 (2018) 149–159
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/wasman
Furthermore, the EU Waste Framework Directive 2008/98/EC
(WFD) requires member states to apply the EU Waste Hierarchy
and achieve two recycling and recovery targets by 2020: (a) reuse
and recycle at least 50% of household (HH) waste and (b) prepare
for reuse, recycling and other recovery at least 70% of construction
and demolition waste (European Commission, 2008; Gharfalkar
et al., 2015; Waite et al., 2015).
The recycling of plastic packaging waste is regarded to be an
important prerequisite for its diversion from landﬁll and the bio-
sphere, and the generation of a recognizable high-quality sec-
ondary material (PlasticEurope, 2012). Although, there is a
general agreement that the ‘clean’ fractions of plastic polymers
should be recycled, there is still debate on how to properly manage
the mixed and/or contaminated (‘‘dirty”) waste plastics found in
waste (Astrup et al., 2009; Lazarevic et al., 2010; Rigamonti et al.,
2014). To achieve mono-material ﬂows of secondary raw material
from post-consumer plastic packaging (PCPP) waste, such fractions
need to be sorted out of the HH waste (Groot et al., 2014). Match-
ing the large variety of materials and substances that constitute
PCPP (and the impurities it may contain) with the correct combina-
tion of available sorting and processing technologies to deal with
them, render its effective recycling complex and challenging (Feil
et al., 2017; Thoden van Velzen et al., 2013; Thoden van Velzen
et al., 2016; Velis and Brunner, 2013; WRAP, 2013).
Recognising the need for high quality recycling as an effort to
increase circularity and recovery of resources from waste, the pre-
sent work focuses on the various collection schemes that are
implemented in England, and in particular how current practices
affect the recovery of PCPP waste (Feil et al., 2017; Ragossnig and
Schneider, 2017; Velis, 2015).
The aims of the present study are: (a) to analyse the collection
performance of the different schemes adopted by the waste collec-
tion authorities (WCAs) (mostly known as local authorities (LAs))
that operate in England, with speciﬁc focus on PCPP waste; (b) to
compare the quantities of PCPP recovered from the various collec-
tion schemes and examine the proportion that reach material
recovery facilities (MRFs) and reprocessors (plastic recovery facili-
ties, PRFs) and (c) determine the ﬁnal quantity and most abundant
types of plastics that are, in fact, recycled, as a function of the col-
lection scheme implemented.
2. Background on UK recycling collection schemes
Three main collection schemes, currently in use in the UK, are:
(a) kerbside collection (KS), (b) household waste recycling centres
or civic amenity sites (HWRCs) and (c) bring sites/banks (BSs). A
detailed description of the collection schemes is presented below.
2.1. KS collection
KS collection involves LAs, paid contractors or permitted private
business/charity collecting waste intended for recycling directly
from HHs. Recently, there has been a degree of convergence in
the detailed practical operations (e.g. how waste is sorted by the
householder and the frequency with which it is collected). This
can be mainly attributed to the government-funded Waste and
Resources Action Programme (WRAP) creating performance
benchmarks and guides for LAs (Defra, 2013). Jenkins et al.
(2003) reported that LAs doubled their collection rate (by weight)
with the introduction of KS collection as opposed to relying on
householders to take recyclable materials to a speciﬁed collection
point (Jenkins et al., 2003). It is also reported that the degree of
effective source separation is a critical factor in achieving targets
such as ‘‘50% recycling of HH waste by 2020” (Cole et al., 2014).
It is noteworthy that the majority of English LAs operate separate
collections of recyclables and residual waste (the fraction of waste
that cannot be recycled) (WRAP, 2009a, b).
There are three broad subsets of this type of collection, as
KS sort (KSS), where the collection of dry recyclables takes place
in containers (mostly boxes, bags or sacks) which is then hand
sorted by collection operatives into a refuse collection vehicle
(RCV) that has multiple compartments for the various collected
KS single stream commingled or fully commingled (C), where
the collection of all dry recyclables occurs together in one con-
tainer and then transferred into a standard RCV with only one
compartment. In turn, there is subsequent sorting at a MRF
and in some cases there is an intermediate stop at a transfer/
bulking station. After sorting, the ﬁnal destination is the repro-
cessors, though part of the stream can be converted to energy,
depending on the quality (Cimpan et al., 2015).
KS dual or three (multi) stream commingled (Cx, Cxx, MC),
where the collection of commingled materials takes place in
one stream, while a separate stream is used for one or more
other dry recyclates (Cimpan et al., 2015). Usually, two contain-
ers with two compartments in the RCV are used to maintain
separation (split body RCV). The commingled stream is then
sent to a MRF for sorting.
More details on the various collection modes (abbreviations
also deﬁned) that operate under the KS collection scheme are also
shown in Table 1.
HWRCs serve as an alternative and/or support to KS collection.
They are large facilities that usually reside within a community to
which householders can take their waste. Items that are too costly
for LAs to collect routinely via KS are often received at the HWRCs.
These include building waste, green (garden) waste and even dry
recyclables not collected via KS owing to omissions by household-
ers or contractors.
Limited relevant literature is available regarding the collection
rate performance of HWRCs. Parﬁtt et al. (2001) assessed the
effects of container use on refuse and recycling collection in rural
and urban classiﬁed areas in the UK and suggested that the contri-
bution of HWRCs to collection was 16%, and was mostly attributed
to green waste (Parﬁtt et al., 2001). Other studies on recycling via
HWRCs focused on the collection of bulky waste, optimisation of
parameters involved in this kind of collection scheme, or the
Code description for the various collection streams that operate under the KS
Symbol Terminology Description
C Commingled (Single stream)
g Separate Glass
Separate Glass Stream, within the commingled
dual or 3 stream collection scheme
p Separate Plastic
Separate Plastic Stream, within the commingled
dual or 3 stream collection scheme
q Separate Paper/
Separate Paper/Fiber Stream, within the
commingled dual or 3 stream collection scheme
MC Multi Stream
Either 2 or more commingled collection
separated according to ﬁber and containers or
KSS Kerbside Sort Collection of dry recyclables in containers
(mostly boxes, bags or sacks) with further hand
sorting into a RCV with multiple compartments
for the various collected materials
150 J.N. Hahladakis et al. / Waste Management 75 (2018) 149–159
responsiveness of the staff on site and how this affects collection/
drop-offs (Curran et al., 2007; Maynard et al., 2009; Williams and
Taylor, 2004; Woodard et al., 2004). Detailed data on the relevant
legislation, up to date statistics on HWRCs provision and evidence-
based approaches to assessing and improving their performance
can be found in the relevant WRAP reports (WRAP, 2012, 2014a).
BSs are smaller, strategically located in target areas with high
foot trafﬁc like supermarkets or leisure facilities, where the public
can place recyclables in an effortless manner. These sites collect
recyclable materials such as cans, glass bottles, plastic bottles, plas-
tic carrier bags etc. They can be commingled, but the amendment on
collection set by the WFD restricts it (European Commission, 2008).
As with HWRCs, limited literature is available on BSs, regarding
particular amounts on the breakdown of their contributions or
quantifying any rejections due to contamination. Again, WRAP
annual reports are the most relevant data source (WRAP, 2009a,
b, 2014b, 2015a).
2.4. Frequency of collection
Another factor that critically affects the amount of PCPP waste
collected is the frequency of collection. Most LAs that operate in
England use alternate weekly collection (AWC) across all schemes
(also known as ‘fortnightly collection’). Residual waste destined for
landﬁll or energy from waste (EfW) plants or mechanical-
biological treatment (MBT) plants, is collected on the one week
and dry recyclables the week after (European Parliament, 2013;
Parﬁtt and Bridgewater, 2011). However, some LAs maintain fort-
nightly collection of refuse, but collect recyclables on a weekly
basis (WRAP, 2009a). Restricting refuse collection in this way has
been shown to promote recycling activities and increase recycling
rates (Williams and Cole, 2013).
2.5. Contamination, quality and types of recyclables
Recycling efﬁciency is highly dependent on the quality of the
dry recyclable input materials (Velis and Brunner, 2013). In gen-
eral, high quality secondary materials can support ‘‘closed loop”
recycling, as they can directly substitute virgin materials, while
lower quality materials will normally be ‘‘cascaded” into lower
value applications. However, the quality of materials collected
can be easily affected by contamination introduced at various
stages of the segregation at source, collection and sorting/recycling
processes (e.g. food contact materials (FCM) and/or cosmetics plas-
tic packaging). In some cases, as it happens with polyoleﬁns (PO),
contamination can also occur during the ﬁrst use (e.g. food compo-
nent sorption by the packaging) and/or during storage (prior to the
implementation of any recycling process), thereby making closed
loop recycling for PO rather impossible.
WRAP (2015b) deﬁnes contamination during recycling as ‘‘un-
wanted or non-target material within the commingled recycling
including liquids and food within target material” (WRAP,
2015b). This broad deﬁnition generally manifests one of the
Contamination with non-recyclable materials that should be in
the residual waste stream (i.e. black bin);
Contamination with non-targeted materials being erroneously
collected, e.g. by householder putting glass in recycling contain-
ers even though their WCA does not collect this material;
Targeted materials collected but contaminated with liquids, oils
or putrescibles, e.g. food residues.
Contamination during KS processes is usually associated with
incorrect segregation by householders, who are then encouraged
to re-segregate their waste for the next collection. Contamination
noticed post-KS, HWRC or BS i.e. during the ofﬂoading of a RCV
may potentially lead to rejection of the whole load either to landﬁll
or to another MRF (‘‘dirty” MRFs) that can sort the waste. Finally,
contamination that evades the MRFs pre-sorting procedures can
not only affect the quality of the dry recyclables, but also damage
facilities (mechanical sorting equipment), leading to further rejec-
tion by the reprocessors.
The quality of the recyclates obtained from the various collec-
tion schemes is debated by many parties involved in recycling.
KS is normally considered to produce the highest quality recy-
clables in comparison to other schemes. The Department for Envi-
ronment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) advises that source
separation of recyclables increases the value of recycling and low-
ers costs and environmental impact (Defra, 2005). This view is mir-
rored by WRAP who identify that: the quality of recyclates
obtained with KS is more reliable compared to other schemes;
there is a lower net cost involved (WRAP, 2009a) and have lower
rejection rate in MRFs than commingled waste (WRAP, 2009b).
Other advantages of KS collection scheme, include higher portion
of collected recyclables that are, actually, recycled and ability to
diversify to collection of other types of materials.
Other investigators come to different conclusions. Some report
that source-separated and commingled collection produce compa-
rable quality recyclates (Feil et al., 2017; Luijsterburg and
Goossens, 2014), or that higher total collection yields of dry recy-
clables are obtained via commingled rather than separate collec-
tion (WYG, 2011).
Consequently, LAs are often left with an unclear choice regard-
ing how quality vs. quantity of recyclables can be optimised so as
to achieve their recycling targets. The purpose of this study is to
provide some clarity and shed some light regarding the effect of
the various collection methods on the quantity and types of recy-
3. Methodology and data sources
The waste data ﬂow (WDF) database (WasteDataFlow, 2015)
that archives quarterly data reported by all LAs and waste disposal
authorities (WDAs) on waste collected and processed in the UK,
was used as the primary source of data. WDF contains data on pop-
ulation, number of HHs and weight of all materials collected from
HH and non-HH sources in each LA. Annual plastic waste arisings
were calculated based on Defra latest statistics on packaging waste
for years 2012–2014, assuming an even quarterly distribution
throughout the year 2014, which was estimated at 555 kt (Defra,
2016). The total amounts of plastics collected in England during
the examined period were calculated at 131 kt (for KS), 8 kt (for
HWRCs) and 2 kt (for BSs), respectively; thus a total of 141 kt. This
amount accounts for only 25.5% of the plastic waste generated in
England; the majority of plastics (approx. 55%) end up in the resid-
ual waste stream, for disposal to landﬁlls, EfW and/or MBT plants;,
with the remaining 19.5% estimated to be disposed as litter (street
or marine litter).
Data was obtained for 320 LAs in England, including the 6 uni-
tary counties and the City of London (WasteDataFlow, 2015). Fur-
ther details on the type of plastic recyclables collected, materials
collected commingled with plastics, containers used to store plas-
tic recyclables for collection and frequency of collection were
obtained from the LA’s individual websites.
The collection methods considered here were KS, BSs and
HWRCs. Waste data obtained also included information on waste
J.N. Hahladakis et al. / Waste Management 75 (2018) 149–159 151
ﬂows from street recycling bins, but their contribution to the over-
all collected amount was found to be negligible.
The compositional analysis of commingled material input and
output in MRFs, performed by WRAP, was used to determine the
amount and distribution of plastics in the commingled stream for
each of the LAs commingled weight; thus, approx. 17% of the com-
mingled stream consists of plastics; 7% plastic bottles, 4% pots, tubs
and trays (PTTs), 3% plastic ﬁlms (WRAP, 2015b), 2% plastic ﬁnes
(plastic particles < 45 mm) and 1% non-packaging plastics and liq-
uids (WRAP, 2015b). However, given that approx. 75% of inputs to
MRFs come from HH waste, and 25% from commercial and indus-
trial (C&I) waste (Tolvik-Consulting, 2011; WRAP, 2007), for every
100 t of waste presented at a MRF (rounding to the nearest 1 t), the
HH waste stream was estimated to consist of 7 t of bottles, 4 t of
PTTs, 3 t of ﬁlms and 62 t of other waste, while the C&I stream will
consist of 2 t plastic ﬁnes, 1 t NPP and 21 t of other waste; i.e., the
HH waste stream is enriched in plastics compared to the C&I
stream. Thus, a fully commingled HH waste stream intended for
MRF will be 9.2% bottles, 5.3% PTTs and 3.9% ﬁlms; a total of
18.4% plastics. This is the calculation basis followed in the detailed
methodological approach of the descriptive statistics presented in
Descriptive statistics were performed for various examined
variables along with comparisons by relevant categorical factors
(e.g. per type of collection scheme) and groupings of cases (e.g.
regional overviews). Results were analysed in order to reveal pat-
terns and to formulate any hypotheses on the interdependence of
waste plastics collection schemes and their potential to increase
the amount of PCPP waste collected for recycling. All the major
ﬁndings are presented and discussed in Section 4.
4. Results and discussion
4.1. Distribution of collection schemes in LAs in England
Out of the 320 LAs in England, 315 operate a KS collection
(either individually or in combination with HWRC and/or BSs),
which represents approx. 98% of all the LAs that operate in Eng-
land. About 19% operate only KS, while the rest operate together
with either BS or HWRC or with the combination of all three
schemes (see Fig. 1a). The remaining 5 LAs either speciﬁed that
they do not collect plastics of any kind or did not publish the
details of materials collected on their websites. However, these 5
LAs operate BSs and/or HWRCs, thus making up for the 1.5%
(sum of 0.9%, 0.3% and 0.3%) of the combined collection systems
that is depicted in Fig. 1a. This accords with previous UK-
focussed analyses, from major English organizations, e.g. RECOUP
(RECycling Of Used Plastics), WRAP or WYG (global consulting
and advisory company), where the whole of the UK is accounted,
providing similarly high contribution of the KS scheme (Recoup,
As it was explained in Section 2.1, various modes of collection
are implemented within the KS collection (Fig. 1b). Over half is
simply fully commingled collection (C), a third involves commin-
gled collection with a separate stream of glass, paper and/or plastic
(Cx), while the remainder involves other combinations of commin-
gled collection with either two separate material streams (Cxx) or
even more streams (multi-commingled, MC) (Table 1). The most
prevalent combination of collection system types is the KS and
HWRC collection (42.8%), (Fig. 1a). More speciﬁcally, 315 LAs have
reported to use KS collection, 233 LAs to use HWRC and 122 LAs to
use BSs. Furthermore, it was calculated that approx. 99% of total
plastics collected came from KS and HWRCs, with the remainder
coming from BSs (Fig. 1a).
The distribution of the different containers used for the collec-
tion of plastics, as well as the distribution of the frequency of col-
lection is shown in Fig. 2. It is apparent that most LAs collect
bottles, PTTs and ﬁlms via wheeled bins (primarily) and sacks (sec-
ondarily). Fortnightly collection is the most common.
4.1.1. KS collection
The three main schemes under the KS collection (described in
Section 2.1.), as well as any other combination of schemes within
this category, were identiﬁed and classiﬁed using the abbreviations
presented in Table 1.
Information on collection schemes for the 313 (out of the 315)
LAs were accounted in the present study, since necessary informa-
tion were missing from the other 2 LAs’ websites. As shown in
Fig. 1b, about 50% of the LAs (157 out of the 313) collected their
plastics fully commingled, while KS sort collection accounted for
Cg, Cq, Cp
Fig. 1. Distribution percentages of 320 LAs operating (a) with various collection
systems and (b) under the KS collection scheme and its variations. The dominance
of the KS scheme and the commingled way of collection are obvious. Key: KS:
kerbside, HWRC: household waste recycling centres, BS: bring sites, C: commingled,
Cg: separate glass stream within the commingled dual or 3 stream collection
scheme, Cq: separate ﬁber/paper stream within the commingled dual or 3 stream
collection scheme, Cp: separate plastic stream within the commingled dual or 3
stream collection scheme, Cxx: schemes with 2 separate material streams and a
commingled stream under the multi commingled stream, MC: multi commingled
stream with either 2 or more commingled collection separated according to ﬁber
and containers or other.
152 J.N. Hahladakis et al. / Waste Management 75 (2018) 149–159
ca. 12% (37 out of the 313). Overall, 87% of LAs collect their plastics
commingled, whereas a mere 13% accounts for a separate collec-
tion. This data ‘‘reality” is in contrast to the debate statement of
‘‘quality vs quantity” that KSS supporters use over commingled col-
lection. Even considering that KSS is a much cheaper option, the
ﬁnal choice, as described in Fig. 1b, would still be commingled col-
lection, most likely because it is more convenient for both HH res-
idents and collection crews.
The 233 LAs that reported operating HWRCs contributed
thereby a total of approx. 8 kt of plastics collected over the exam-
ined period, around 6% of the grand total. Data on the performance
of HWRCs was almost non-existent before the report from the
National Assessment of Civic Amenity Sites in 2004, the ﬁndings
of which (summarised in a WRAP report) indicated 31% recycling
rate for English HWRCs, excluding rubble recycling (WRAP,
2012). Later WRAP studies in 2013/2014 report that 697 HWRCs
were identiﬁed in England (7 less than in previous year), with
76.3% targeting plastics collection and an average recycling rate
of 60.1% (WRAP, 2014a).
The contribution of HWRCs is expected to be signiﬁcant mainly
due to their acceptance of items that are not accepted in KS collec-
tion, such as bulky items and other plastic items like ﬁlm and hard
plastics (Suffolk Coastal, 2015).
A total of 122 LAs reported BSs collection quantities, with a
recorded number of 1444 BSs operating, collecting plastics either
commingled and/or source separated. Some LAs reported only
quantities, but omitted the number of existing BSs in their area.
The plastic quantities in the commingled collection could not be
determined in detail, since this data was not reported; therefore,
in order to estimate the amount of plastics, the assumption of the
18.4% of the commingled stream was again adopted. The amount
of plastics collected source-separated for the period of the collec-
tion was approx. 1 kt, while the amount of the total plastics col-
lected was estimated at almost 2 kt. This amount represents only
a mere 1% of the overall collection of plastics (see Fig. 1a). WRAP’s
BS guidance indicates that the general contribution to collection of
BSs has reduced by 31% from 2007 to 2011, with a simultaneous
reduction to the contribution to recycling (from 8.1% to 4.7%) dur-
ing the same period (WRAP, 2014b). Thus, it can be speculated that
the contribution of BSs in plastics collection might have reached a
plateau and might have become irrelevant to the increased KS col-
lection, unless LAs proceed to a major change in their strategy.
4.2. Descriptive statistics on plastics collection
4.2.1. Detailed methodological approach
Table 2 summarises the amount of plastics sent to recycling by
LAs, grouped by collection scheme for the 320 LAs reporting. The
‘collected’ (Coll) plastics column is taken directly from our data-
base and adds together that collected at the KS and that collected
via other schemes (HWRC, BS, etc.), the median and mean values
of the latter being 15.8% and 27.3% of the total respectively. This
material is assumed to be sent directly for recycling.
The ‘MRF’ column is calculated using the reported total com-
mingled input (KS plus other, the median and mean of the latter
being <1% and 3.2% of the total respectively) sent to a MRF facility
in the following manner. As it has already been stated, the total
input to MRF is reported by WRAP (2015b), to consist of 17% plas-
tics; 7% bottles, 4% PTTs, 3% ﬁlms, 2% plastic ﬁnes and 1% non-
packaging plastics (WRAP, 2015b). However it is known that bot-
tles, PTTs and ﬁlms overwhelmingly dominate the plastics fraction
of HH waste and are largely absent from commercial and industrial
Fig. 2. Distribution of type of containers used, frequency of collection and number of LAs. It is clear that the majority of the LAs collect bottles, PTTs and ﬁlms, by the use of
wheeled bins and sacks, whereas similar number of LAs use boxes for the same type of collection, both fortnightly and weekly.
Amount of plastics (kg HH
) sent to recycling by LA reported collection scheme (C, Cg, Cp, etc.) reported via direct collection (Coll) and estimated from MRF inputs and MRFs
rejection rates with supporting statistical data (95% conﬁdence in the mean; maximum and minimum; Total = total number of reporting LAs by collection scheme; No data =
number of LAs not reporting sufﬁcient data for analysis; Data = number of LAs submitting sufﬁcient data for analysis).
C Cg Cp Cpq Cq Cqg KSS MC Mcg Other
Coll MRF Coll MRF Coll MRF Coll MRF Coll MRF Coll MRF Coll MRF Coll MRF Coll MRF Coll MRF
Mean 3.1 34.4 1.6 25.6 30.7 n/a 24.9 n/a 4.3 20.2 11.2 5.6 16.7 4.1 4.9 6.6 6.9 n/a 4.0 38.9
±95% 0.8 2.2 0.9 3.7 n/a n/a 3.7 n/a 1.2 3.2 10.0 1.5 2.5 3.9 2.3 3.8 n/a n/a 3.1 36.3
Max 24.4 63.4 6.0 48.2 n/a n/a 26.8 n/a 18.2 43.8 19.9 6.4 33.9 15.6 10.7 17.8 n/a n/a 9.0 57.4
Min 0.1 5.4 0.1 9.9 n/a n/a 23.0 n/a 0.1 2.1 2.2 4.9 0.6 0.2 0.3 1.7 n/a n/a 0.8 20.4
Total 157 157 33 33 1 1 2 2 65 65 5 5 36 36 12 12 1 1 9 9
No data 61 23 14 2 0 1 0 2 25 25 2 3 0 29 3 4 0 1 4 7
Data 96 134 19 31 1 0 2 0 40 40 3 2 36 7 9 8 1 0 5 2
J.N. Hahladakis et al. / Waste Management 75 (2018) 149–159 153
waste, and vice versa (WRAP, 2015b). However, if only certain plas-
tic types are collected for recycling in the commingled stream and
the rest are either separated at source or enter the residual waste
stream, then the corresponding percentage of plastics in a given
commingled stream must be reduced accordingly, e.g. in an
authority where only bottles and PTTs are collected in the commin-
gled stream, the percentage of plastics will be 9.2% + 5.3% = 14.5%
and so on.
When analysing across multiple LAs with a variety of
approaches to collecting plastics, these percentages must be
increased by a correction factor so that the overall average compo-
sition of the commingled HH waste remains at 18.4% in plastics.
This correction factor is equal to 18.4% divided by the average per-
centage of plastics determined as described above according to the
collection practices, and thus will depend on the particular group
of LAs analysed (i.e. it is not intrinsic to the model); in this case,
the average was 13.2% giving a correction factor of 1.40.
For each LA, the total reported commingled input to the MRF is
multiplied by the plastics percentage appropriate to the reported
collection details, corrected accordingly, and then multiplied by
the pass-through rate (i.e. 1 minus the reported reject rate) for
the appropriate facility in each case.
4.2.2. Collection efﬁcacy of the various schemes
The proportion of LAs reporting sufﬁciently complete data for
analysis in accordance with their stated collection scheme is
mixed, varying among the four major schemes from over 90%
(MRF inputs from Cg, plastics collected for recycling from KSS) to
around 60% (MRF inputs from Cq). In total, 97 out of 320 LAs did
not report sufﬁcient data to be included in the analysis.
Plastics collection is dominated by a small number of schemes;
over half of LAs report collections as fully commingled (C) and a fur-
ther 40% by just three schemes (Cq, Cg, KSS). Many LAs reported
data that might not be expected given their stated collection
scheme, e.g. 55% of those reporting as using collection schemes that
do not collect plastic at the KS reported data for the amount of plas-
tics sent for recycling, and 29% of those reporting as using fully sep-
arated collection reported sending some commingled materials to
MRF. In most cases, these are small amounts associated with the
non-KS collection schemes. However, 10 of the LAs reporting as col-
lecting fully commingled, reported ﬁgures for KS collection of sep-
arated plastics, 4 of these in signiﬁcant amounts over 50 t in the
reporting quarter. Similarly, 7 of the LAs reporting as collecting
using the KSS scheme, reported collecting signiﬁcant amounts of
commingled waste. This suggests either that LAs are using mixed
methods for collecting waste that are not properly characterised
by the reporting categories available, and/or that LAs are reporting
under the wrong headings. In most cases, it is possible by examin-
ing the contextual information associated with the data to infer
which of these has occurred, but this requires a subjective assess-
ment and has, thus, not been carried out in this analysis.
The efﬁcacy of the various schemes with regard to plastics recy-
cling (i.e. the plastics recycling yield achieved, in kg HH
also extremely variable, by over two orders of magnitude in many
cases. The highest reported yield for direct collection of plastics for
recycling was approx. 40 kg HH
(Royal Borough of Kingston
upon Thames, KSS) and the highest estimate for plastics derived
from commingled waste sent to MRF was approx. 63 kg HH
(Ashford Borough Council, C). LAs reporting very low recycling
rates are often – but not always – associated with one or more
instances of missing data, or again potentially reporting under
the wrong categories (see above).
Fig. 3 summarises the efﬁcacy of the various schemes contribut-
ing in the recycling of plastic under three categories; those LAs that
report KS separation of plastic (group 1), those that report collect-
ing fully commingled (group 2), and those that report KS separation
but not of plastic (group 3), with the data split according to
whether the plastics sent for recycling is directly collected or
derived from a MRF. While those LAs in group 1 unsurprisingly
send the most directly for recycling, the total amount of plastics
recycled is exceeded by both other groups. Arguments as to which
collection scheme is the most appropriate therefore depend on
whether it is preferable to maximise the direct (source separated)
collection of plastic (which is perceived by some to provide a better
quality recyclate) (Defra, 2005; WRAP, 2009a, b) or the total
amount of plastic recycled (commingled collection) (Feil et al.,
2017; Luijsterburg and Goossens, 2014; WYG, 2011).
Based on the premise that plastics collected separately from KS
and those from BSs and HWRCs provide a better quality recyclate
than those derived from MRFs, it was considered useful to look
at the distribution of plastics recyclate that is generated via these
three options, i.e. KSS, BSs and HWRCs, and via MRFs. Fig. 4
Fig. 3. Plastics collected for recycling by LAs grouped according to collection group scheme. Error bars = 95% conﬁdence in the mean. Legend adjacent to top of columns is
number of LAs reporting sufﬁcient data / total number of LAs reporting under each group of collection schemes.
154 J.N. Hahladakis et al. / Waste Management 75 (2018) 149–159
illustrates the quality of plastic recyclate generated in each region
via the aforementioned options. The abundant stream of plastic
recyclate in most regions is the one derived via MRFs, with the
exception of North and South West regions where plastic recyclate
was mostly derived from KSS, BSs and HWRCs. This can be attrib-
uted to the prevalence of LAs operating in these regions by using a
high number of KSS and, BSs and HWRCs (e.g. South West involves
14 LAs that provide KSS collection plastics, 23 LAs that also have
HWRCs and 16 LAs providing BSs). North West region, on the other
hand, has only 4 LAs that provide KSS, but 26 LAs with HWRCs and
10 LAs with BSs.
Fig. 5 plots the total amount of plastic sent for recycling against
the number of HHs in a WCA for each of the groups described
above. Little correlation or clustering is apparent, other than that
the largest 3% of LAs tend to perform relatively poorly regardless
of the collection scheme adopted.
4.3. Sorting of recyclables and plastics
The recyclables collected from the 320 LAs are reportedly going
to MRF for further sorting. According to the quarterly data from the
WDF, only 275 LAs have reported amounts of recyclables sent to
MRFs, and these were selected for the analysis in regards to the
MRFs input. From the WDF and the information provided in
WRAP’s Material Facilities Portal and operator’s websites, it was
possible to identify the MRFs where LAs send their recyclables.
As shown in Fig. 6, LAs use MRFs mostly situated within their
region, but the use of nearby MRFs is also shown to be quite preva-
lent. This can be explained by the fact that contractors responsible
for the collection of recyclable materials from the LAs, may also
have respective contracts with MRF operators which lead to this
wide distribution of recyclables in the variety of existing MRFs.
Capacity aspects could also be another factor that governs the ﬁnal
destination of the recyclables collected, but due to the limited
range of data and lack of analysis on the C&I waste, that is also
accepted in the MRFs, makes it difﬁcult to derive any robust data
with regards to capacity.
Based on the reported data, the amount of recyclables (not just
plastics) that went into 52 MRFs for the examined period was just
over 687 kt; 556 kt of these were diverted for further reprocessing
(either nationally or elsewhere), while the rest were either rejected
to landﬁll (20 kt) and/or diverted to EfW plants (36 kt) for
energy recovery. This resulted in an overall rejection rate of
approx. 9%, which is close to the 8.5% reported by WRAP (WRAP,
2009b) and to the 10.8% reported by the Environment Agency
(WRAP, 2006b). However, a detailed scrutiny into the available
reported data in combination with the analysis on the size (capac-
ity) of MRFs in which they are diverted to, has indicated that rejec-
tion rates may vary widely depending on the size (capacity) of the
MRF (Fig. 7).
These results are in contrast with the reported speculations that
rejection rate is inversely proportional to the size of the plant, with
Fig. 4. Distribution of collected plastics per region in England via the KSS scheme, via other-BSs and HWRCs- schemes, and the commingled via MRFs scheme. The abundance
of the commingled collection is obvious.
Fig. 5. LA size (with regards to number of HHs) vs. total amount of plastics collected
for recycling. Key: Group 1. Collection with separated plastics (KSS, Cp, Cpq, MC,
MCg), Group 2. Fully commingled collection (C), Group 3. Collection with separation
of materials other than plastic (Cg, Cq, Cqg, Other).
J.N. Hahladakis et al. / Waste Management 75 (2018) 149–159 155
the smaller MRFs having a higher rejection rate and the bigger
MRFs having the smallest rejection rate (WRAP, 2006c). This spec-
ulation is supported on the fact that larger MRFs are expected to
have a more sophisticated sorting technology (e.g. manual vs. sen-
sor based sorting) and thus be more effective in sorting recyclables
into their nature (i.e. glass, plastic, paper/card, and metals). Espe-
cially in the case of plastics, large MRFs are considered to be tech-
nically capable to address challenges associated with black-
coloured polymers, plastic containers with ﬁlm attachments that
cannot be recycled, and the presence of organic materials (contam-
ination or non-recyclable bio-based polymers) (WRAP, 2006b). As
reported by WRAP (2006a), a 2–5% rejection rate could apply on
the most efﬁcient MRFs whereas a 12–15% on the less efﬁcient
(WRAP, 2006a). Nonetheless, the analysis performed in this study
(based on the reported data) demonstrated that MRFs with capac-
ity between 25 kt and 50 kt, (11 MRFs were accounted in this cat-
egory) were the most efﬁcient with a rejection rate of 6.7%,
followed by MRFs with a capacity of 10–25 kt (4 MRFs in this class)
and >100 kt (16 MRFs in this range), with 7.2% and 10.2% rejection
rates, respectively. The MRFs with the highest rejection rate were
Fig. 6. Distribution of MRFs used by LAs per region in England.
Fig. 7. MRFs efﬁciency and rejection rate (per category, according to their capacity).
156 J.N. Hahladakis et al. / Waste Management 75 (2018) 149–159
those in the range of 50–100 kt (20 MRFs in this range) with a
12.5% rejection rate and the smaller MRFs (<10 kt) (just 1 MRF in
this class) with a rejection rate of 17.5% (Fig. 7). Apart from the
rejection taking place within the MRFs, there is also a minor rejec-
tion at their gate, but this differentiation was not possible to be
made based on the data that were available from WDF.
4.4. Reprocessing of plastic materials and recycling rate
Some have expressed concerns that sorting plastics is not a sus-
tainable business in the UK. According to Ellen MacArthur Founda-
tion, the global plastic economy has to be redesigned completely
(Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2016). Best practices for recycling
plastics require that they are separated appropriately and washed
to be further reprocessed, even though washing is not considered a
sufﬁcient enough decontamination process for FCM and/or cos-
metics. Moreover, different polymers (and combinations of addi-
tives) contained are a major issue for sorters, as well as
reprocessors. From the WDF the names of the reprocessors are
given, but tracing their location and/or the fate of the recyclables
after being reprocessed is beyond the aims and scope of the pre-
sent research. In the end, considerable amount of both high and
low quality recyclables (almost 60% of the amount reaching at
MRFs–low quality- and reprocessors–high quality-) will end up
being exported mostly to China, Hong Kong and other Asian coun-
tries (WRAP, 2016).
The amount ﬁnally sent to reprocessors was estimated at
approx. 22 kt and Fig. 8 presents the distribution percentages of
the plastics reprocessed per region. The prevalence of mixed plas-
tics and mixed plastic bottles fractions in all regions is clear. It is
also noteworthy that South East region and East England displayed
high amounts of PET and HDPE sent to reprocessors, mainly due to
the higher number of LAs that operate with a plastic collection sys-
tem in these areas (63 out of 67 LAs and 47 out 47 LAs, respec-
tively). There are still quantities of plastics further rejected from
the reprocessors which were reported to be approx. 11 t. The recy-
cling rate, according to the most commonly used deﬁnition shown
below, was calculated at around 23% based on the ratio of the
amount of waste plastics collected for recycling (excluding rejects
at MRFs-PRFs) divided by the amount of waste plastic packaging
generated in England during the examined period (waste arisings).
Nonetheless, the authors acknowledge that there are various
other deﬁnitions reported both in ‘‘grey literature” and in scientiﬁc
research, as well as several other uncertainty issues involved. How-
ever, these are outside the focus of the present work, but will be
discussed in another upcoming work of the same team of authors.
The present research has focused on evaluating the effect that
different collection schemes have on the quantity of PCPP waste
collected for recycling, using empirical serial data from HH dry
recyclables collection in England, in 2014. Three main collection
schemes were analysed: (i) KS recycling collection, (ii) HWRCs, also
known as ‘civic amenity sites’, and (iii) BSs. The main conclusions
drawn from the data analysis are as follows:
Fig. 8. Distribution of plastics sent to reprocessors, from July-September 2014, per region in England, UK. The prevalence of mixed plastics and mixed plastic bottles fractions
is clear in all regions.
Recycling rate ¼amount of PCPP waste collected for recycling ðexcluding rejects at MRFs—PRFsÞ
Total amount of PCPP waste generated
J.N. Hahladakis et al. / Waste Management 75 (2018) 149–159 157
(1) Across all collection schemes, most LAs (203) use the AWC
and collect PTTs and plastic bottles by the use of wheeled
bins and sacks.
(2) The KS collection scheme was found to be the dominant one
amongst BSs and HWRCs, contributing to the amount of
PCPP waste collected for recycling. The efﬁcacy of schemes
varies widely between authorities. In general, fully commin-
gled collection (C) is estimated to produce the highest yield
of plastics collected for recycling in terms of kg HH
There is no overall correlation between the size of a LA (mea-
sured in number of HHs) and its plastics recycling yield.
(3) At that point in time, nearly a third of LAs did not report suf-
ﬁcient data to be included in the analysis. Many LAs reported
data that suggest they operate mixed schemes, or that plas-
tics collection is being reported under the wrong categories.
Some LAs that report very low plastics recycling rates, may
not be reporting them correctly. The quality of the data
could be greatly improved by simplifying or clarifying the
reporting process, or examining the categories under which
LAs must report.
(4) Out of the approx. 141 kt of plastics collected for recycling
(reported on an ‘as received’ basis and accounting for almost
25.5% of the total plastic waste generated, that is 555 kt)
(Defra, 2016), only a mere 22 kt (ca. 16%) were reported to
be ﬁnally sent to reprocessors (PRFs) (either directly or after
being processed in MRFs). Mixed plastics and mixed plastic
bottles are the most abundant fractions of this amount,
accounting for ca. 50% and 40%, respectively.
(5) A recycling rate of approx. 23%, based on the most com-
monly used deﬁnition, was calculated for PCPP waste, in
England, in 2014 (quarterly ﬁgure).
To the authors’ best knowledge, the existing academic literature
on the impact of different collection schemes on the recyclables
quantity and quality is rather limited (Kranzinger et al., 2017;
Pfeisinger, 2016; Snell et al., 2017). The present work is merely a
ﬁrst step towards this direction. The fact that EC has recently intro-
duced a ‘Circular economy package’, setting ambitious recycling
targets and identifying waste plastics as a key area where major
improvements and focus is necessary (European Commission,
2015; European Parliament, 2014), solidiﬁes the signiﬁcance of this
research and highlights the need for further investigation. As a
future proposition, the authors would recommend that in order
to maximise the total amount of recyclables collected per house-
hold a commingled collection should, perhaps, be implemented.
Besides, based on the ﬁndings of the present work, this is the
scheme that produced the highest yield of plastic recyclates, in
terms of kg HH
We gratefully acknowledge the UK Natural Environment
Research Council (NERC) and the UK Economic and Social Research
Council (ESRC) support who funded this work under the main pro-
ject with title: ‘Complex-Value Optimisation for Resource Recov-
ery’ (CVORR) project (Grant No. NE/L014149/1). We are also
grateful to the reviewers for their constructive input.
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