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Industry rejects key Scottish MRF code plans ahead of Defra launch

Industry heavyweights have rejected key proposals in the Scottish Government’s recyclate quality plan ahead the UK Government launch of a similar scheme.

As Defra prepared to launch its long-delayed MRF code of practice and Quality Action Plan (QAP) - expected on Friday – bodies representing reprocessors and waste management firms revealed their responses to Scotland’s plan.

Reprocessors’ group, the Resource Association (RA) slammed as “wholly inadequate” MRF code sampling and auditing proposals in the Scottish QAP.

The RA, led by chief executive Ray Georgeson, said proposed recyclate testing requirements would likely be unrepresentative of a MRF’s performance, leaving the regime “open to abuse”.

It warned the whole system could be brought into disrepute “by the actions of rogue operators”.

RA, which represents Aylesford Newsprint, Coca-Cola, Novelis, UPM, ECO Plastics among others, called for Scotland’s proposed sampling and testing frequencies (see table below) to be increased fourfold for all input and output streams, a doubling of sample sizes, and unannounced inspections and annual audits by SEPA.

Closed Loop Recycling said it would not support the code without regular, unannounced MRF audits.

Proposed Minimum sampling requirements for output material

Proposed Minimum sampling requirements for output material

Scottish Government proposals are widely thought to be similar to plans about to be published by Defra. Officials in Edinburgh are now considering responses to the consultation which began in October.

The Scottish Environmental Services Association (SESA) warned of the dangers to MRF operators of inconsistency between the jurisdictions. It criticised the lack of detail on the “proposed format” of the MRF code, how it would be applied and how it may differ from Defra plans. It said the forthcoming Defra MRF code for England should be applied to Scotland.

SESA rejected the Government’s very rationale for a mandatory MRF code - to address market failures. Instead, the group suggested, the rationale should be to achieve “maximum recycling; high environmental standards; and efficient, competitive and transparent markets”. The waste management body also criticised “disjointed and confused” proposals to make public MRF sampling data; a proposal strongly supported by reprocessors.  

Proposals for a voluntary quality grading system for key recyclate materials were criticised by both MRF operators and reprocessors.

SESA called the scheme an attempt to “introduce quality thresholds by the back door”, warning that “highly subjective” standards would increase waste treatment costs and decrease recycling rates.

The RA said there was “very little encouragement” from reprocessors for a grading system, which it said, had also featured in Defra’s thinking.

It said grading and specifications should be a matter for agreement between MRFs and reprocessors, and the scheme would be unnecessary if the MRF code was improved.

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