Defra has presented plans for its much-vaunted materials recovery facilities code of practice to key stakeholders, MRW has learned.
Minutes from a Defra-hosted meeting, seen by MRW, reveal for the first time the department’s in-depth thinking on the code – which will have substantial ramifications across the industry.
The code is aimed at increasing client confidence in the quality of materials leaving MRFs, a key issue since the Government published proposed amendments to the waste regulations that would allow commingled collections to continue in some circumstances.
But notes from the meeting held on 27 April and attended by nearly 30 senior industry figures show key decisions surrounding inspection standards remain up for grabs while ministers are considering a less strenuous regime for proven high performers.
Other key points from the notes from the meeting include:
- Defra plans to consult on the code in August with a view to laying legislation before Parliament by 2013 and bringing laws into force in April 2014.
- Defra wants the code to be mandatory to ensure “a level playing field, scale of uptake [and] certainty of uptake”.
- A pilot scheme has been floated, although the Environmental Services Association told MRW it was against this.
- Defra is set to convene a working group to go through issues surrounding sampling sizes and frequencies. Sources told MRW this would prove a “thorny issue which would be hard to get agreement on”.
- Defra said it wanted to “amend the term ‘contamination’ to ‘non target’ to avoid negative connotations in [communications] with householders and reflect an ability to recycle an increasing range of materials”.
- A Defra presentation said the department was “considering various options for defining sampling frequency…[including the] potential to allow reduced sampling frequency once consistency of output has been demonstrated”.
Senior figures praised Defra’s level of engagement with the sector.
But sources told MRW the meeting laid bare the amount of ground officials needed to cover before plans can be ready for consultation later this summer.
As well as issues surrounding how often and how arduous sampling will be, consensus is yet to be agreed on fundamental questions such as defining what facilities should be classified as MRFs.
Waste expert and former Veolia deputy chief executive Paul Levett told MRW: “We asked for a good consultation with industry experts and I am encouraged by what Defra have done so far.”
The Environmental Services Association (ESA) told MRW that the Government must not “dictate” terms of trade as a result of the Code.
ESA policy adviser on materials recovery, David Sher, said: “We want to give the market the opportunity to decide what is fair, equipped with good information.
“It is not for ESA or the Government to dictate the terms on which all trades take place.”
The new guidelines could also hand the Environment Agency fresh ammunition to clamp down on illegal exporters. See MRW.co.uk for more.