Commingled waste collections will only be permitted where they provide “high quality recyclate” or separate collection “is not practicable”, the Environment Agency has stated in draft guidance obtained by MRW.
In a briefing note released under a Freedom of Information request, the EA indicates how it intends to enforce the regulations that from next year mandate the separate collection of glass, paper, plastics, and metals.
“The regulations specify that mixed dry recyclables must be collected separately, not commingled. And they must not be remixed later,” said the agency.
It expects collection authorities will have “thoroughly reviewed” the issue and they will need to provide evidence and a “clear audit” of their decisions.
The EA is encouraging councils to use the Waste Regulations Route Map, which was issued by the London Waste and Recycling Board and WRAP, and said it was considering how the document could become part of the regulatory regime.
“We think this is an excellent move and regard it as good practice. If collectors follow it, we will believe this will give them high assurance of acting reasonably,” said the EA.
Commingling will be allowed if separate collection is not practicable.
“’Practicability’ is intended to be a high hurdle. ‘Impracticable’ does not just mean difficult, inconvenient, more expensive or unpopular,” the agency clarified.
Commingled will also be allowed when it provides high quality recyclate. To give indication of what may constitute a benchmark for high quality, the EA listed:
- The guide on recyclate contamination limits produced by the Resource Association on behalf of reprocessors;
- European Commission’s guidance which implies that that high quality means the standard that can be achieved by separate collection; and
- A recently published Zero Waste Scotland’s study on contamination levels in source segregated recyclates.
The EA also said that Defra’s stated position in a letter sent to local authorities last year by former resource minister Lord de Mauley had not changed.
The letter advised local authorities that glass should be collected separately where it cannot be kept out of the paper stream, or when low quality mixed glass is produced – wherever it is practicable to do so.
The agency said it is now working with Defra and WRAP to develop “a risk-based regime” for the enforcement of the separate collection requirements.
“It is premature to discuss potential details but discussions are going well. We will be talking to those affected on our approach as we develop it over the coming months.
“It will be our aim that the regime will help collection authorities to meet their obligations, and for them to wish to do so willingly. We will take enforcement action where necessary, but we want to keep that to an absolute minimum.”