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Biffa blasts legal challenge to directive

A legal challenge to the revised Waste Framework Directive (r-WFD) has been atttacked by one the sector’s largest companies which claims it could “set back British recycling for years”.

The Campaign for Real Recycling (CRR) has recently had accepted a judicial review hearing of the directive. The organisation is challenging the Government’s inclusion of commingled collections in the UK’s transposition of the directive, arguing that Article 11 requires separate collection of paper, plastic, glass and metal by 2015.

Biffa development director of the municipal division Pete Dickson said: “The blinkered self-interest of the CRR will have its day in court, as is its right. Biffa, for one, will be providing substantial input to the Environmental Services Association’s expert evidence being prepared in support of Defra’s interpretation.

“But if the court rules in CRR’s favour, many scores of councils may be faced with scrapping their commingled recycling schemes and spending an unnecessary fortune on implementing kerbside-separated collections, as well as dealing with increased disposal costs.”

In response, CRR chair Mal Williams said it took no satisfaction in pursuing a judicial review of Defra’s transposition.

“The directive specifically recognises the importance of separate collections of materials and ultimately the benefits this will bring.”

But Dickson argued that half of local authorities in England use commingled collections because they are proven to boost recycling rates and it offers a number of operating efficiencies for local authorities, such as fewer vehicle movements, fewer collection rounds and containers, and a safer working environment for collection crews.

“What matters is not the collection system, but how you manage your processes to ensure you meet the quality specifications of your re-processor partners,” he added. “Councils must have the freedom to choose the collection system that is right for their local needs, budgets, geographies and residents, be it commingling or kerbside-sort. The CRR apparently wants to take away that freedom.”

He accused the CRR of dictating how recyclables are collected. But he believes the aim of the r-WFD was to ensure local authorities provided recycling services that offered maximum waste diversion and recycling and not to rule out commingled collections.

In Biffa’s view, the purpose of the directive was to ensure that local authorities provided comprehensive recycling services to enable maximum waste diversion and recycling.

Williams rejected the Biffa criticism: “We find it bizarre that Biffa claims that the directive will not dictate the shape of recycling collections when that is one of its main means to achieving material integrity.

“Claims that a change of service from a comingled system to some form of kerbside sort collection will be expensive are simply alarmist. There is good evidence to show that local authorities can switch to kerbside sort and save money.”

The case is to be heard at Cardiff’s Administrative Court across three days, starting on 14 December.

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