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Local authorities may need to revisit organic collection systems, following EU vote

Only compost and digestate that meets end-of-waste criteria  may be classed as ‘recycling’ with the rest defined as ‘recovery’, following a vote at the European Commission on 1 July.

The Revised Waste Framework Directive Technical Adaptation Committee voted in favour of the adoption of compliance target rules for Article 11(2) of the r-WFD which states that Member States shall take the necessary measures designed to achieve a 50% recycling or ‘preparing for reuse’ target for household waste by 2020 and “the preparing for re-use, recycling and other material recovery, including backfilling operations using waste to substitute other materials, of non-hazardouconstruction and demolition waste excluding naturally occurring material defined in category 17 05 04 in the list of waste shall be increased to a minimum of 70% by weight”.

Compost and digestate that remains ‘waste’ by not meeting the end-of-waste criteria and is spread to land under the Environmental Permitting Regulations will be classified as “recovery” for the purposes of the r-WFD.

The ruling could spell trouble for those local authorities that have introduced green waste and/or food waste collections to increase their recycling rates and hit statutory targets, if they do not meet the criteria.

Many local authorities have introduced green waste and food waste collections because organic material is heavy and therefore a significant contributor to the weight-based recycling targets. If the “target rules” are fully adopted by the EC, and therefore EU member states, local authorities will likely have to increase the quality of their organic waste input materials delivered to processing facilities to reach the requirements of the quality protocols to ensure this practice is still classed as recycling.

This is a particular concern for local authorities in Wales which each have binding statutory targets to recycle 70% of its waste by 2020. Scotland has a country-wide recycling target of recycling 60% of its waste by 2020, while England is driven only by the 50% EU target by 2020.

Burges Salmon solicitor Esther Kiddle said: “In order to meet the requirements of this change, local government officers will have to work together with the private sector to improve the quality of collected materials from householders and review current practices. Burges Salmon is working closely with local government and industry representatives like the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management, the Association for Organics Recycling (AfOR) and the Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Association to get the message across that it is time for a change. The waste industry doesn’t want to be in the position where contractors are employing people to handpick contamination out of the input material to meet the requirements of the quality protocols.”

AfOR managing director Jeremy Jacobs said: “Local authorities in England do not have individual recycling targets, it’s just the UK’s target of 50% of household waste which has been implemented by the EU. So, there is no effective driver for an individual English local authority to meet this target.  Instead they will be directed by their elected members and residents who will want to continue recycling.”  

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