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New waste collection regulations come into force

The UK and Welsh Governments’ third attempt to transpose EU rules on waste collections comes into force today.

The Waste (England and Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2012 were laid by ministers in July in an attempt to draw a line under the on-going legal wrangle over collection methods.

The new amendment stipulates that named recyclable material should be collected separately where necessary and where it is “technically, environmentally and economically practicable”.

Defra and the Welsh Government were forced to amend the law when reprocessors and opponents of commingled collections, concerned about recyclate quality, brought a judicial review (JR). The JR was halted in December 2011 after the Government said it would make a fresh attempt at transposing the EU revised waste framework directive (rWFD).

While waste management firms and local authorities welcomed the amendment that will effectively allow commingling, opponents have said it is not good enough.

Andy Moore, of the Campaign for Real Recycling (CRR) that began the legal challenge last year, said in July the amendment was “still not an adequate transposition of the revised Waste Framework Directive”.

Last week CRR’s solicitor told MRW they had made an application to “progress the existing court proceedings on the basis that the amended regulations still do not comply with European Directive”.

Phillip Ward, former government official and WRAP head of local authorities, said he was concerned about the “low level of awareness” among councils and others about the new regulations.

He said: “Legal arguments are continuing, but councils who think this is blanket permission to carry on commingling may be disappointed.”

Councils letting new contracts would need to show separated collections had been properly evaluated and that conditions for material sorting quality had been set for commingling, said Ward.

He added: “They should not forget their separate duties under the waste hierarchy which is now included in the regulations and is another reason why they need to know what happens to their material after collection. This may also affect material sent for EfW. Incinerators which do not achieve R1 status count as disposal and not recovery and are lower down the hierarchy”

Commingling conflict

Defra has again failed to publish a consultation on the MRF code of practice and quality action plan, a vital plank of the governments’ strategy to increase recyclate quality while allowing commingling to continue. The consultation was originally due in August but, as MRW revealed, was delayed until September so it could be bundled with a raft of other Defra measures.

The consultation follows months of discussions between interested parties, with opposing groups reluctant to cede ground to the others.

While recyclers and reprocessors want tighter regulation of quality standards, MRF operators and waste management firms take a more market-led approach, focusing on maximum recycling and market transparency.

A Defra spokeswoman said she was unable to give a date for the consultation luanch at this stage.

The amended Regulations in detail

  • The amended Regulations relate to the separate collection of waste.
  • They amend the Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2011 by replacing regulation 13 to separately collect waste paper, metal, plastic and glass from January 2015.
  • It also imposes a duty on waste collection authorities, when making arrangements for the collection of such waste, to ensure that those arrangements are by way of separate collection.
  • These duties apply where separate collection is “necessary” to ensure that waste undergoes recovery operations in accordance with the Directive and to facilitate or improve recovery; and where it is “technically, environmentally and economically practicable”.
  • The duties apply to waste classified as waste from households and waste that is classified as commercial or industrial waste.
  • The amended Regulations also replaced regulation 14(2) to reflect the changes to regulation 13 to ensure a consistent approach.  Consequential changes are also made to reflect changes in paragraph numbering in the new regulation 13.

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