Standardizing recycling collections in Northern Ireland could save councils millions, support jobs and increase the amount of waste that can be reused, says the charity Bryson Recycling.
He is asking councils to adopt his box system to keep items separate.
A new policy on waste management is currently being developed.
The latest government figures show that councils collected almost 10% less rubbish from January to March 2022, compared to the same period in 2021.
Household waste represents 87.3% of that garbage, and only 45.8% went to recycling.
That’s down from 46.6% last year.
Northern Ireland has a target to recycle 65% of all waste by 2035.
What can be recycled varies from council area to council area and sometimes within those areas.
And municipalities can use different colored bins or different box systems to collect recyclable waste.
“There are probably four different approaches in Northern Ireland,” said Eric Randall, CEO of Bryson Recycling.
“And yes, I think it would be better if we migrated to a more common approach.
“For us, using boxes is very simple because homeowners do a bit of the work.
“They put the material in one of three compartments. That means we keep it separate in the vehicles and we can sell 80% to companies in Northern Ireland.”
“The more you mix, the more difficult it is to get the quality of those materials to a point where you can actually get them to local companies that require high specifications to make new products.”
Those new products include things like egg cartons and drink holders.
Demand is increasing and that is keeping Huhtamaki’s Lurgan factory very busy, according to CEO Richard Smith.
“We produce approximately one million cartons of eggs a day.
“We are currently financing our next stage of investment, which is another machine to expand that production.
“But we have to make sure we have the raw material, not just now but 10 to 15 years from now, and that creates more jobs here, and then indirect jobs in transportation contractors, engineers, etc.
“It fits in with the whole closed-loop system that people are fighting for.
“But we have to make sure we have access to good raw material now and in the future.
“Basically, we’re sending a product that has value to landfill, which is crazy.”
The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs is currently developing a new waste management strategy which will be published next year.
There will also be a consultation on standardizing recycling practices, after consultation with councils.