Evaluating the progress of the UK’s material recycling facilities: a mini review

Muhammad Ali, Peter Courtenay

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Over the last 15 years, the UK has made great strides in reducing the amount of waste being sent to landfill while also increasing the amount of waste being recycled. The key drivers for this change are the European Union Landfill Directive (1999/31/EC) and the UK Landfill Tax. However, also playing their part are the growing numbers of Material Recycling Facilities (MRFs), which process recyclables.
This mini review evaluates the current state of MRFs in the UK, through extensive secondary research, and detailed primary data analysis focussing on MRFs located in South-East England, UK. This study also explores technologies that aim to generate energy from waste, including Waste-to-Energy (WtE) and Refuse-derived Fuel (RDF) facilities. These facilities can have a huge appetite for waste, which can be detrimental to recycling efforts as some of the waste being sent there should be recycled. It was found that the waste sent to a typical UK MRF would recycle around 92% of materials while 6% was sent to energy recovery and the remaining 2% ended up in landfill. Therefore, the total estimated rejected or non-compliance materials from MRFs are around 8%. A key recommendation from this study is to adopt a strategy to combine MRFs with a form of energy generation, such as WtE or RDF. This integrated approach would ensure any residual waste arising from the recycling process can be used as a sustainable fuel, while also increasing the recycling rates.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1149-1157
Number of pages9
JournalWaste Management and Research
Issue number12
Early online date12 Nov 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2014


  • Material Recycling Facilities
  • energy from waste
  • recycling
  • material characterisation
  • sustainable fuel


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