Speaking to MRW, Veolia Environmental Services environmental and regulatory affairs director Gill Weeks said that the UK is doing well in increasing its recycling rates and diverting waste from landfill. However, speaking speculatively, she said the industry needed to ensure that waste companies have robust systems to accurately measure commercial and industrial waste if the UK ends up including C&I waste in its municipal waste definition. She also said the industry needed to assess clarity around whether the 50% figure in Article 11 of the revised WFD excludes green waste and the impact this will have on UK recycling figures.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is currently reviewing the definition of municipal waste to include similar C&I and institutional wastes so that the UK can be in line with other European Union member states that include some C&I waste in their municipal waste definition.
She said: Smaller waste management firms may not have sophisticated IT systems to produce accurate measurements for C&I waste. There is a need for all waste industry companies to have robust systems for data measurement and to make accurate calculations.
She said the consultation on the redefinition of waste will have to consider this carefully.
Weeks also raised concerns over the controversial Article 11 of the revised WFD.
Article 11 states: By 2020, the preparing for re-use and the recycling of waste materials such as at least paper, metal, plastic and glass from households and possibly from other origins as far as these waste streams are similar to waste from households, shall be increased to a minimum of overall 50% by weight.
Defra has interpreted this to mean that green waste can be included in this definition contributing to the 50% target.
However, Weeks said: I was at a meeting at Brussels in October last year and somebody asked the panel whether member states could include biowaste and green waste in the 50% Article 11 target. The question was posed to the representative from the European Commission.
The EC representative said the issue was being considered and was looking for the issue to be resolved by comitology [refers to the committee system which oversees the delegated acts implemented by the European Commission].
The Defra representative said that he was very clear and confident that green waste was included in the 50% target.
In the last couple of weeks, Eurostat [the EU statistics office] has issued a discussion paper on a proposal for the monitoring of the recycling targets set in the revised WFD.
Weeks said there was no guarantee that green waste will continue to be included in the 50% target. She suggested other EU member states not including green waste may put pressure on the Commission to do the same to ensure there is a level playing field.
Green waste is often seen as an easy win for councils and can often bump up councils recycling targets. If the EC concludes that green waste is not to be included in the targets this could prove a headache for councils and mean a lowering of recycling figures.
However, EC sustainable production and consumption policy officer Andreas Versmann said: In November 2009, there was a meeting held with member states to discuss calculation methods for targets in Article 11 of the WFD for 50% municipal waste. We concluded that there was a possibility that other waste could be included in that calculation.
If the UK opts for inclusion of biowaste in the target they could do that. (see MRW story)