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Manufacturers 'face problems' if coronavirus halts key recycling in Northern Ireland

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The production of egg cartons is one area which could be affected

The production of egg cartons is one area which could be affected

Getty Images/iStockphoto

The production of egg cartons is one area which could be affected

Some manufacturers here could find it "extremely difficult" or "impossible" to continue production of essential items if the flow of key recycling is halted amid reduced council collections, it has been warned.

Many producers here rely on a steady flow and supply chain of recycling streams from household waste. That includes essential products such as toilet rolls, tissues, cereal boxes, medicine bottles and egg cartons.

Belfast City Council rowed back on an earlier decision to only collect black bins. It has now said it would collect brown bins for food and garden waste and on Tuesday announced all bins would be collected.

However, other councils have said that while bin collection is going ahead as planned, arrangements could change depending on staff availability. Now Bryson Recycling, which collects recycling from more than 170,000 households across five councils here, says it is reducing the volume of recyclables its staff are handling. That includes alternating which type of materials are collected using its kerbside boxes each week.

But raising issues over the supply of recyclable material, Joseph Doherty, managing director of Newry's Re-Gen Waste, said: "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.

"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.

"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."

One of those manufacturers raising concerns is Huhtamaki, which is the major manufacturer of egg cartons and trays in the UK and Ireland.

"Failure to supply egg packaging would have a major impact on the egg industry in the UK and Ireland," said Richard Smith of Huhtamaki.

"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 - impacting on sectors such as egg farmers.

It has also been claimed that there could be a "significant surge" in the volume of organic food waste from homes across Northern Ireland, as the public is required to stay at home.

Colm Warren, chief executive of Natural World Products, based in Belfast, said: "As householders are required to stay at home to prevent the spread of Covid-19, we are expecting a significant uplift in volumes of organics - especially discarded food scraps - to come through domestic waste collections."