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MRF code: what has changed

Defra has laid before Parliament the much awaited code of practice for MRFs, a year after submitting a draft document for consultation.

Following criticism in the consultation that the code’s definition of a MRF was not clear enough, Defra said it acknowledged the need for “more clarity”. The final version has been amended “to ensure that certain facilities such as mechanical biological treatment (MBT), facilities handling construction waste and reprocessors, are not captured”.

The MRF definition is: “A regulated facility or part of a regulated facility that receives mixed waste material in order to separate it into specified output material for the purpose of selling it, or transferring it to other facilities or persons to enable that material to be recycled by those facilities or persons.”

The following has changed from the consultation document:

  • The 1,000 tonnes per annum threshold will remain, but Defra will continue “to keep this under review to allay concerns that this could create a potential loophole”.
  • Materials transferred from one MRF to another will not need to be sampled.
  • Sampling requirements have been amended (see below).
  • The requirement for an external independent audit has been removed.
  • The requirement to sample residual waste has been dropped on health and safety grounds.
  • Inspections will be undertaken by EA and Natural Resources Wales under their existing regulatory powers as part of their permitting regime.
  • There will be no minimum quality standards.
  • The proposal that MRFs that could demonstrate high level of consistency of data and quality could reduce sampling has been dropped.

Defra said it plans to develop sampling guidance alongside the regulations, and to provide clarification including a common methodology for taking samples in a “statistically representative manner”.

The regulations will become effective in six months.


Sample Weights (kgs)

Residual20Not required


Sample Frequencies

 ConsultationRevised (pre-2016)Revised (post-2016)
 Sample per weeksample per tonnage throughputsample per weeksample per tonnage throughputsample per tonnage throughput
Input2200Not required160125
Residual1100Not requiredNot requiredNot required
Paper1100Not required8060
Glass150Not required5050
Metal120Not required2020
Plastic120Not required2015


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