Foil industry counts on volunteers to boost recycling

Recycling of aluminium foil is about to expand, with the Aluminium Foil Recycling Campaign (AFRC) aiming to recycle 30% of foil by 2003, from near zero at present. The plan relies initially on voluntary collections by charities and schools - with foil being incorporated in multi-material schemes in due course when effective mechanical sorting techniques have been developed.

Plans for a national foil recycling scheme were announced in November 1992 (ENDS Report 214, p 11 ). Five pilot schemes have since been set up and assessed.

More details of the national programme were announced in April. AFRC plans to recycle 30% of the single material foil consumed by 2003. Laminated foils will not be covered, but the overall recovery rate should bring foil into line with what is demanded under the proposed EC Directive on packaging for each material.

In 1994, 20 new local authority collection schemes will be established based on a system developed in Cambridge that is attaining a 5% recycling rate. A charity or voluntary group will manage the foil banks, ensuring the foil is of an adequate quality. AFRC will also encourage primary schools in each area to collect foil for the charity. Collected foil will be sold by the charity to Cookson Aluminium for £350 per tonne.

Other collection systems have mainly failed, says AFRC. Those relying on local authorities to service the banks yield poor-quality material. And when foil is included in kerbside multi-material collection schemes, many small items, such as milk bottle tops, are left on the hand-picking belts. AFRC is hoping that mechanical techniques based on eddy current separation will be developed so that foil can be included in multi-material schemes.

Until then, the industry wants to keep its collection scheme separate from the programme being developed by other sectors in the packaging chain by the Producer Responsibility Industry Group (PRG) (see pp 12-13 ). AFRC has no desire to support a scheme which cannot collect foil and therefore wants PRG to give it a special status.

Instead, a levy will be collected voluntarily from UK foil rollers and importers. However, not all rollers have signed up and not all convertors have agreed to the levy. To overcome the free rider problem, AFRC hopes that any legislation drawn up to implement PRG's plan will require mandatory payments under its own scheme by everyone in the foil industry.

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