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Recycling collection vital for packaging production

Joseph Doherty, managing director of Re-Gen Waste.

NI manufacturers relying on recycling streams from household waste are urging local authorities to maintain their recycling collection following speculation some councils have stopped or may stop household collection and close recycling centres.

Supply chains must be kept open as vital packaging material is required to protect food and medical supplies, said Joseph Doherty, managing director of Re-Gen Waste, which handles mixed dry recycling for councils across GB and the Republic of Ireland.

“We know it’s not easy for councils at the moment and we have the utmost respect for their key staff, who are emptying our bins whilst trying to keep themselves safe,” he said. “However, we have to keep recyclates moving, or we will not be able to supply essential manufacturers with the packaging materials they require. Many of these manufacturers have increased production to ensure they are providing basic but essential products such as toilet rolls, tissues, cereal boxes, medicine bottles, egg cartons, milk and soft drinks bottles.

“If waste streams are stopped, there will not be enough material in the system to continue production in many of the businesses, that people rely on for day to day life.”

Lurgan-based company Huhtamaki is the only manufacturer of egg cartons and trays in the UK and Ireland, and its products ensure a smooth flow of eggs from farm to packer and onward from the retailer to consumer.

Richard Smith, general manager of Huhtamaki, said: “Eggs are regarded as a key food item in times of crisis as they are a cheap, convenient source of protein. Failure to supply egg packaging would have a major impact on the egg industry in the UK and Ireland.

“Huhtamaki relies on a steady flow of raw materials to manufacture our egg cartons, and the recycled paper arising from the council waste streams is a critical element of this raw material mix.

“While we can normally source other forms of wastepaper in times of shortages, with inaccessible global supply chains, it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible to do so in the current situation.”

A shortage of paper could put the ability of the factory to operate, at risk, with consequent knock-on impacts for the egg farmers, egg packers and consumers in Northern Ireland, as well as across Great Britain and Ireland.

Doherty said: “On a more sombre note, unsound management of household waste collections could have a knock-on effect on human health and the environment.

“Everyone across our society is coming together to meet this challenge and beat the coronavirus. I urge decision-makers at every level to regard waste management as an urgent essential public service and give it the attention it rightly deserves.”

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