Can DMR and co-mingle eliminate general waste?

Can general waste collections finally be eliminated from the business and commercial waste sector? There are those in the industry who claim that the days of general waste are numbered, while others say that it still has a future and we shouldn’t be mourning (or celebrating) its demise just yet.

With some voices in the trade saying that the future could be a mixture of Dry Mix Recycling (DMR), Co-Mingled Collections and quality food recycling which make waste disposal easier for the customer, the need for general waste bins could soon decline rapidly. It’s worth, then, examining the opportunities and problems posed by DMR and co-mingle.

Co-mingled collections are when recyclable materials are collected together in the same receptacle to be sorted at a recycling facility. Although simpler for customers, there are clear restrictions on what can or cannot go into a co-mingle bin. Materials have to be clean and dry to prevent cross-contamination, and some co-mingle collections exclude glass because it makes card and paper recycling less efficient.

DMR is dry waste that is free from contaminants such as food, organic or construction waste. A typical DMR collection may include paper, card, plastics, glass bottles and drink cans. Like co-mingle, DMR waste is taken to a materials recycling facility where it’s sorted either mechanically or by hand.

Co-mingle and DMR come with obvious advantages over general waste. Firstly, there are fewer bins required, something that’s always appreciated by the customer. Secondly there’s cost – a properly filled DMR bin means less general waste falling foul of the landfill tax. Some operators estimate that DMR collections can be between 20-50% cheaper than general waste collections.

Of course, there are disadvantages, and the main one revolves around customer education. Eliminating waste bins through introducing co-mingle or DMR comes with the risk that customers (or their employees) think that it’s “anything goes” in the new receptacles. Cross-contamination in co-mingle bins remains a problem, and it’s primarily down to customer behaviour. The cost of cross-contamination can be a high one – what started off hundreds of litres of sorted waste can become unrecyclable waste for landfill, just through poor waste decisions.

DMR and co-mingle have the potential to drive down the amount of general waste generated, but it’s still too early to say that general waste bins are on the way out. With coverage for comprehensive waste recycling solutions around the UK still patchy, it will be a few years before general waste and the curse of landfill disappears altogether.

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