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Manchester expresses "frustration" at Defra over waste definition

Manchester City Council has expressed extreme frustration at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for revising the definition on how some waste material is categorised causing a dip in the citys recycling figures.

Defra figures show that in the first quarter of this year, 18.41 per cent of the citys waste was recycled. This represents a drop of about five per cent compared to the same period last year.

According to the council, it comes after Defras decision, in April 2007, to revise the definition of the NI 192 performance indicator for recycling and composting to explicitly remove the use of material as daily landfill cover (material such as street sweepings used to cover landfill sites), and render this ineligible for counting as recycling. The council also believes that this could have a significant financial impact on the council as daily landfill cover is subject to landfill tax (see MRW story).

The national indicator 192 measures percentage of household waste arisings which have been sent by authorities for re-use, recycling, composting or anaerobic digestion. This is a key measure of local authorities progress in moving management of household waste up the hierarchy, consistent with the Governments national strategy for waste management.

Manchester City neighbourhood services council director Vicky Rosin said: It is extremely frustrating, to say the least, that we are in a situation in which, despite Manchester residents recycling more than ever before, these figures appear to show a drop.

This does not reflect the reality of what is actually happening in the city. The facts are that more people than ever before are recycling.

Not a single piece of recycling by any Manchester resident ends up in landfill sites all of it is recycled.

The council sends materials collected from its street scene and bulky waste collections for processing to waste firm Redgate Holdings. Most of the 10,500 tonnes of waste it gets per annum is processed for use as daily cover on landfill sites. Waste that is sent for landfill is covered on a daily basis to prevent scavenging by animals or to reduce smells.

On 1 September the Government introduced new legislation that put a tax on prescribed landfill site activities that ensures that waste used as daily cover at landfill sties is subject to landfill tax. The council said that these changes have a direct impact on the status of the waste dealt with under the Redgate contract.

The council must now review its reporting arrangements for this material classification.

Manchester City Council environment executive member Richard Cowell said: We have come on in leaps and bounds in recent years in terms of our recycling figures. Just six years ago we recycled a tiny proportion of our waste 4.3 per cent.

By the end of this year we will have recycled more of our waste than ever before. Thats even taking into account this bureaucratic redefinition and is something that everyone in Manchester can be proud of.

A Defra spokesman said that daily landfill cover has never been counted towards recycling. On the Defra website it states: Waste used for daily landfill cover must be excluded from waste sent for reuse/recycling/composting. This is disposal and must be counted in NI 193. Waste used in landfill restoration can count towards waste sent for recycling/composting if it is used for recovery, and provided that use complies with the conditions of a land-use planning consent and with an exemption or with the conditions of an extant license or permit. Recovery is defined as waste which serves a useful purpose in replacing other materials which would have had to be used for that purpose, thereby conserving natural resources.

A report has been prepared for the councils Communities and Neighbourhoods Overview Scrutiny Committee which will discuss the
situation at its meeting next week.

A Greater Manchester Waste Disposal Authority spokeswoman said the impact of the updated figures on the whole of the GMWDA is less than one per cent and the GMWDA remains set to exceed its target recycling rate of 33 per cent.

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