Ministers have begun drafting the MRF code of practice, MRW understands, with senior figures now expecting it to be made mandatory.
Environmental Services Association policy advisor David Sher told MRW minsters were working on the basis that it would be compulsory.
He said: “Any decision will be subject to a full consultation but we think Defra are now minded to make the code mandatory.”
The quality of recovered materials leaving a MRF has become even more important since the Government published proposed amendments to the waste regulations that would enforce separate waste collections where practical and necessary to meet “appropriate quality standards”.
Defra declined to officially confirm whether the MRF code, expected to require the measurement of inputs and outputs to give clients confidence in the quality of material they receive, would be a diktat or optional.
The ESA called on Defra to set up meetings with councils and reprocessors in April to fully prepare for a full consultation in the summer.
MRF operators and reprocessors have both publically endorsed a mandatory code but reconciling the two sides’ views on what constitutes an acceptable quality standard has proved very challenging.
Resource Association chief executive Ray Georgeson told MRW a positive outcome could be achieved this time round but that constructive engagement between all parties was crucial.
He said: “We hope this will lead to greater transparency and consistency in regulation and accreditation that gives everyone confidence in the quality of materials reaching the market and generates public confidence that recycling is working well in the UK.
“We understand from the ESA that the steering group that convened to produce the last version of the code of practice is to be re-convened and we look forward to progress on this in the coming weeks.”
A Defra spokeswoman said: “If we take the decision to make the code mandatory, then a consultation will take place later in 2012.”