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Defra sets out crucial collection regulations

Defra has laid amended regulations before Parliament in a move aimed at drawing a line under the current legal battle surrounding recycling collection methods.

The amended regulations , which will come into force from October if approved, will require councils to have separate collections for paper, plastic, metal and glass by 2015 unless they meet conditions for a commingled collection.    

The move is Defra’s third attempt to amend the Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2011 and replaces regulation 13 (see box for more)

A Defra spokesman told MRW: “Commingled collections will be allowed beyond 2015 provided the right quality of recycling can be achieved through means other than separate collections and in situations where separate collections are not possible.”

A summary of responses to the Consultation on amending the Waste Regulations 2011 on the separate collection of recycling can be found here.

One of the main concerns raised by councils and waste management companies was the need for further guidance to define the situations when a commingled collection is acceptable.

The regulations say commingled collections are acceptable when seperate collections are not “technically, environmentally and economically practicable”, or TEEP, and “quality standards” can be met but councils and companies fear being legally challenged about whether the criteria has been met.

Other areas that drew particular comment were how best to achieve high recycling rates, protect local decision making, take account of local authority budgets, and safeguarding the value of investment in infrastructure such as MRFs.

Defra said it would “develop proposals for guidance with stakeholders over the coming months, leading up to a formal consultation”.

The department said the changes to the Waste Regulations closely align with the wording of the EU Waste Framework Directive but also maintain the flexibility local authorities need to adopt a collection service delivering the best outcome for their areas.

A Defra statement said: “We believe that this amendment meets the requirements of the directive and is robust to further legal challenge.

“We hope this will allow us to draw a line under the current legal process, and work more constructively with all parts of the recycling supply chain to deliver more and better quality recycling.”

The Environmental Services Association (ESA) said the new regulations were workable and appeared to be consistent with recent guidance from the European Commission on separate and commingled collection.

ESA director of policy, Matthew Farrow, said: “We very much hope that these regulations will be approved by Parliament and by the Welsh Assembly, so that local authorities and waste management companies can get on with the important job of providing waste and recycling collection services which meet the wishes of local communities while respecting the Directive’s requirements.”

The amended Regulations in detail

The amended Regulations relate to the separate collection of waste. 

They amend the Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2011 by replacing regulation 13 to separately collect waste paper, metal, plastic and glass from January 2015. 

It also imposes a duty on waste collection authorities, when making arrangements for the collection of such waste, to ensure that those arrangements are by way of separate collection. 

These duties apply where separate collection is “necessary” to ensure that waste undergoes recovery operations in accordance with the Directive and to facilitate or improve recovery; and where it is “technically, environmentally and economically practicable”. 

The duties apply to waste classified as waste from households and waste that is classified as commercial or industrial waste. 

The amended Regulations also replaced regulation 14(2) to reflect the changes to regulation 13 to ensure a consistent approach.  Consequential changes are also made to reflect changes in paragraph numbering in the new regulation 13.

Readers' comments (1)

  • This is Defra's third attempt to transpose the regulations. They are having difficulty because they want to preserve co-mingled collections as a main stream option when the Directive is pretty clear that separate collections should be set up except where they are not technically environmentally or economically practicable or they could not meet the waste hierarchy or would damage human health or the environment. But the wording of the regulations seems to turn that on its head requiring separate collections only where they are necessary to achieve the waste hierarchy.

    I would be surprised if this does draw a line under the legal challenge. It certainly won't if the MRF Code of Practice is not rigorous on quality and if it is not effectively enforced.

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