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Concern over industry engagement in MRF reporting

The Environment Agency (EA) is taking action to boost the number of MRFs registered under the new reporting regime, with Defra saying fewer than expected were taking part.

The first dataset for Q4 2014, released by WRAP, indicates both the input and output materials from each site including contamination levels. It notes that 90 facilities in England had registered, of which four did not submit their data. Nine had done so in Wales, with one not reporting.

The MRW Handbook, last revised in December 2014, lists about 160 MRFs in England and Wales above the 1,000-tonne throughput criterion.

In response to a question from MRW, Defra said: “The number of MRFs currently notified under the scheme is lower than what we and the EA had initially envisaged.”

David Palmer-Jones, chief executive of the UK division of Suez Environnement, believes it will take a minimum of 18 months before “a true picture” is painted. But he added that he had concerns that only 90 MRFs were on the EA register, just over half of the likely number required to participate.

“The data cannot provide a true reflection of recycling quality across England and Wales until the regulator can be satisfied that all who should be participating are doing so,” he said.

Former Defra waste official Phillip Ward agreed: “It’s very early days and the priority must be to get coverage of the data close to 100%. I hope my suspicion that the ones that did not report have worse results than the ones that did is unfounded, but time will tell.”

The EA said it was taking steps to contact unregistered sites individually to verify their status and determine whether they met the criteria necessary to sample and report under the scheme.

It said that a failure to submit data after being registered could affect a site’s subsistence fee. As part of the regime, the EA conducts two site visits each year, one announced and one unannounced, to ensure that operators are taking a consistent approach to measuring contamination and providing accurate data.

Viridor has nine sites which qualified for the regime and all submitted date on time. Herman van der Meij, director of Viridor Resource Management, said: “Whilst recycling has been a UK success story, the sector continues to face a ‘perfect storm’ including reduced input material quality as UK councils literally count the cost of cuts in front-end waste communication and collections. Only if we produce and maintain high quality recycled commodities will we achieve demanding material specifications for customers in the UK and global markets.

“Against this background the initiative by WRAP to publish data on MRF input and output data is welcome indeed. Whilst in its early stages, the tool has the potential to accelerate a focus on the quality agenda benefitting corporates, councils and communities.”

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