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Household Waste Recycling Act: views from the industry

By Greg Pitcher

Initial reactions are being made to the draft legislation drawn up by the Government for the Household Waste Recycling Act.

Stakeholders are being asked for their views on the way the law has been set out and this week we look at opinions from the private sector.

The act makes it compulsory for all homes to have kerbside collections of at least two materials for recycling by the last day of 2010.

And the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) this month released the first details of how it would work.

That draft guidance, which explains what waste collection authorities must do to fulfil the obligations of the law, has been put out to consultation until October 1.

A key point made by the document is that the decision on what should be counted as one material within the act is based upon how the material is processed during recycling and the final use of the product.

Thus cardboard and paper are two types of recyclable waste while any colour of glass collected will be counted as one material.

The draft guidance adds that the municipal collection of home-produced compost cannot count as a material under the act. But garden waste that is collected free of charge will count as one material.

Also, the use of material recycling facilities (MRFs) to separate unsorted household waste is not an acceptable alternative to the separate collection of recyclables.

Councils wishing to avoid providing bi-material kerbside collections will have to prove either that the cost of doing so is unreasonably high or that comparable alternative arrangements exist.

But the draft guidance adds: The exceptions are narrowly drawn and it is intended that they should be applied restrictively. Waste collection authorities should bear in mind that any decision to rely on the exceptions could be challenged in the courts, for example by a local resident.



Reaction

Paper recyclers have long campaigned for an end to co-mingled collections, believing they yield poor-quality results.

The Confederation of Paper Industries confirmed mills would like to see the act promote source-segregated paper collections.

A spokesman said: From a paper sector point of view, companies would much prefer paper to be recovered at source than at MRFs as they believe this provides a better quality product.

And Aylesford recycling manager Chris White said he was delighted that MRF-separated materials would not count towards the requirements of the act.

I think this would help us and encourage paper reprocessing, he said. It is also good that paper and card are separate materials as cardboard is our biggest contaminate.

Meanwhile, trade association British Glass refused to criticise DEFRA for ruling that different colours of glass counted as one material.

Director of strategy and communications Andrew Hartley said that although different colours had quite different uses, the glass industry did not expect them to qualify as separate materials.

We would much prefer it if our glass came colour separated, he said, but it is not practical for local authorities to do this. We prefer it to come mixed than not at all.

The act is a positive driver for multimaterial collections, which are the way to increase tonnages. Ultimately, the more materials you collect, the more of each material you collect.

I think it would go against the spirit of the act if glass could count as three materials and local authorities could fulfil the requirements of the law by collecting just glass.

Obligated glass manufacturers must recover 71% of their packaging by 2008 under legislation the Government has drawn up to ensure the UK complies with EU law.

This is a massive ask, and Hartley added: I think this act will be a positive influence on our attempts to hit packaging targets but Im not sure it goes far enough.

If all local authorities meet their statutory ta

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