The release by Defra of a draft document on separate collections has renewed the debate over the lack of official guidance for English councils.
The department published the latest version of what were intended as guidelines for local authorities to implement the EU Waste Framework Directive, which mandates the separate collections of recyclable from January 2015 unless it is not technically, economically and environmentally practicable (TEEP) to do so.
The draft document was released last week following a freedom of information request, after Defra confirmed it had abandoned the project saying there was no need for official guidance on TEEP.
“It is a shame that we have ended up in a position where draft guidance on an important set of issues has been made public in such an unsatisfactory manner,” said Steve Lee, chief executive at the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management. “CIWM repeatedly called for guidance from Defra – but this unofficial document comes too late and adds nothing.”
Jakob Rindegren, recycling policy advisor at the Environmental Services Association, said the unfinished document carried no status and added nothing to the TEEP debate.
“ESA would reaffirm its stance that Defra’s decision not to provide local authorities with further guidance on TEEP is regrettable, as it leaves local authorities to grapple with the issue on their own and may add to the uncertainties they face in renewing waste collection contracts in the coming months,” he said.
Lee said a variety of guidance was now available from other governments and organisations, adding it resulted in “a rather patchwork approach across the UK countries, which is not helpful.”
Scottish regulations that came into force this year mandate local authorities and businesses to collect recyclable materials separately while the Welsh government has recently launched consultation on a draft document on the matter.
In England, WRAP and the London Waste and Recycling Board (LWRB) have published a ‘step-by-step’ guide to help local authorities with their legal obligations under the EU directive.
Phil Conran, director at consultancy 360 Environmental, said the draft guidance released by Defra provided “surprisingly little” clarification.
“It doesn’t tackle commercial and industrial waste and issues around whether the recyclables have to be collected separately,” he said.
In this respect, the document was in line with the guidance submitted for consultation in Wales, and the document recently released by WRAP and LWRB, said Conran.
“When you compare it with the Duty of Care Code of Practice in Scotland, which gives very clear expectations on separation without specifically relating it to TEEP, you feel that either Defra haven’t done very much on it, or they did more and this is all they are providing,” he added.