The good news was that the collection rates had again increased. The bad news was that the recycling rate had not increased. The key bit of missing information was why the recycling rate had not increased along with the improvement in collection rates.
This leads to my speculation about the possible problem. When the polymer waste is collected it is cleaned and any metal removed and then the polymer is flaked and this material is scanned and the flakes separated into different batches depending on polymer type. There has been continued improvement on the identification of the polymers and even the segregation of different colour material. The metal detection includes both ferrous and non-ferrous metals. The quality of material recovered and sorted for recycling has never been better.
There are a number of possible problems. One possible cause for a lower proportion of the collected material being recycled is the improving quality of the recycled material. It is possible that more unsuitable material is being rejected and hence the proportion of recycled material may have reduced but because of the increase in collection level it appears as if the recycled amount has remained constant. Another possibility is that the amount of multilayer polymer film is increasing and that it is not possible to and separate the individual layers and so this mixed material may not be able easily identified and cannot be recycled.
No doubt that as this recycling industry matures more work will be done to further improve the quality and quantity of recycled material.
I cannot help but feel that at times we inflict these problems on ourselves. In many cases we are wealthy enough that we are lazy (yes, this includes me) and it is easy for large corporations, that could be regarded as greedy and not particularly responsible, to prey on that weakness and push at us larger quantities of non-recyclable polymer multilayer co-extrusions or laminates under the supposed benefit of convenience. I am becoming more cynical in my old age. As a consumer I am told that the reason why I cannot buy a pack of food that I used to be able to buy but can only buy multiple smaller pouches of food is because of consumer demand for the smaller pouches. However my belief is that if they only pack the food in smaller pouches and no longer in the larger packs then this becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. The fact that price per unit quantity of food has increased, sometimes substantially, and despite the increase in packaging costs provides them with an increase profit is never mentioned.
In talking to people I find that they were, more often than not, happy about the previous pack size and were not happy about the price increase. When discussing packaging they would like the packaging to be simplified so that they could throw everything into the recycling bin and not be having to read instructions as to which bit of a pack can be recycled and which bit cannot. Somewhere in the future I would hope that we did not shoot ourselves in the foot by trying to bend the rules to avoid the national or global goals of trying to reduce energy needs and instead embrace the goals and contribute towards a reduction in global warming.