The three-stream recycling collection judged best for the climate


Research has revealed the exact breakdown of recyclables that creates the optimal collection system for tackling climate change.

A study from the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre showed that a specifically configured three-stream system provided the most environmental benefits.


Commingling glass with metal in one bin; plastic and drinks cartons in another; and paper and cardboard in a third container had the best outcomes, the report said.

Single-stream systems for dry recyclables had the lowest financial and sustainability performance, the research found.

It added that collecting from three or four different bins led to higher collection, sorting and transport costs but greater revenue from secondary materials.

A specifically configured dual-stream system, keeping paper and cardboard separate from glass, metal and plastic, was also competitive in terms of overall outcomes.

Meanwhile, including a deposit return scheme for glass and plastic bottles and metal cans further improved performance, the study found.

Researchers looked at more than 60 scenarios but conceded that local factors such as climate, geography and demographics would all impact on decision making.