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Defra: Separate glass collections 'probably necessary'

It will most likely be necessary for local authorities to collect glass separately from other materials from 2015, a senior Defra official has told MRW.

Exclusive MRW strap

Colin Church, Defra’s director of resource, atmosphere and sustainability, speaking exclusively to MRW, said: “I have yet to see a technology that means you can commingly collect paper, plastic and glass and then separate them out to a good level of quality. You can get good glass or you can get good paper from that kind of process, on balance.”

From 1 January 2015, waste collection authorities must collect waste paper, metal, plastic and glass separately, unless they can demonstrate that it is not necessary to ensure the appropriate level of quality, or/and it is not technically, environmentally and economically practicable (TEEP).

This legislation is set out under The Waste (England and Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2012, which are transposed from the EU’s revised Waste Framework Directive.

Colin Church

Speaking ahead of guidance on TEEP due to come from Defra this autumn, Church (left) said: “When a local authority looks at the necessity and TEEP tests, the necessity test will say it is probably necessary to separately collect glass. And then you have the TEEP test.”

Many in the industry agree that the separate collection of glass is needed to boost recycling rates, but some local authorities may not want a separate glass collection, with one council even rescinding its glass collection earlier this year to save money.

Church stressed that the judicial review on commingled collections earlier this year did not conclude commingling is permissible in all circumstances.

“One of the things that people tend to miss from the ruling on the judicial review is that the judge was very clear – it is for local authorities to determine TEEP, and that is enforced by the Environment Agency,” he said.

But he added that collections do not have to be the same for a whole local authority area. For example, a local authority with rural and urban areas may have different collections depending on whether the local authority’s TEEP assessments find it is or is not TEEP to have separate collections within the different areas.

Church’s fantasy waste budget

Church said if he had a ‘hypothetical’ billion pounds – and Defra decided these ideas were the best use for taxpayers’ money – he would:

1)      Support waste prevention and reuse work to unlock some of the wider social and environmental benefits from that kind of work: “Reuse activity that doesn’t fit neatly into anyone’s budget and is very hard therefore to unlock.”

2)      “If I not only had the money but a magic IT wand, I’d make EDOC happen overnight and get everyone sign up to it so I could understand the wider waste world. I have got good data on household waste – which is about 11 or 12 % of waste arisings. Without the knowledge, how would you understand what the right approaches are?”

3)      Have a “serious look” at implementing food waste collections and their social acceptance. “The full social cost is not quite clear it is the right thing to do - we all are customers.”

4)      “With the other half of the budget”, talk to designers and initiate grants for design with end-of-use in mind.

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