Guidance on separate collections issued by the Welsh Government should give residents a greater voice, according to the Local Authority Recycing Advisory Committee (Larac).
Wales published its ‘Statutory guidance on the separate collection of waste paper, metal, plastic and glass’ on 17 December, to help councils keep within EU rules over the definition of ‘technically, environmentally or economically practicable’ (TEEP) when considering commingling.
The guidance said: “The preference of waste producers (for example, householders or businesses) for different methods of waste collection will not be a relevant consideration unless it identifies technical, economic or environmental impracticabilities.”
In response Larac warned this “ignores local democracy and the operational issues local authorities face”.
It pointed to a recent WRAP report that revealed just 25% of residents are fully engaged with recycling and understand the process, and said residents needed to be involved in decisions on collections.
It also said the Welsh Government should have taken into account a ‘step-by-step’ TEEP publication issued in April by the London Waste and Recycling Board and WRAP in the absence of official guidance from Defra.
Larac chair Andrew Bird said: “The fact the Welsh Government has issued this guidance when none has been forthcoming from England is to be welcomed and shows the good engagement they have with waste issues.
“However we are disappointed there is no mention of the local government routemap in this guidance given how well that piece of work has been received by local authorities and regulators.
“We also believe that residents’ views do form a part of the assessment on collection systems and by ignoring them we could see reductions in quality of material collected.”
The National Assembly for Wales’s Environment and Sustainability Committee has also launched a report following an inquiry into recycling.
The committee said it had written to the former natural resources minister over a possible potential conflict between a local authority’s duty to consult with its citizens about services and statutory guidance on waste.
It concluded: “Local authorities can still comply with their duty to consult by consulting with residents on how they can comply with the requirement for separate collections in the best way for residents.”
Consultancy 360environmental said the Welsh Government’s TEEP guidance did not address problems arising if a waste company is unable to fulfil its legal duty because a customer refuses to separate their waste. It is not clear whether the waste company would then be then breaking the rules or not.
It said: “Whilst local authorities might draw some benefit from it, commercial waste collectors won’t.”