Environment Minister Joan Ruddock told MPs she would not commit to early action to reclassify recycled metals as non waste, despite an open invitation to do so.
Ruddocks comments came in response to a call from MP Alan Whitehead to speed up recognition that recovered metal is not waste.
While Ruddock agreed that EU procedures should not delay agreement on end-of-waste criteria, she added: There is some way to go before the revised [European Waste] directive can be adopted.
Whiteheads comments came as he outlined the challenges facing the industry at a debate in Westminster Hall. He questioned the definition of recovered metals as waste and the lack of an Environment Agency protocol to prevent it being categorised and treated as such.
Not even metal shavings and off cuts escape that [waste] classification, with all the issues that are then involved in the operation of the EU waste framework directive, including handling restrictions, processing precautions and the certification processes that accompany waste on its way to landfill, hazardous waste tips or inert disposal. Hardly any metals go along this route, and yet they are classified as if they do, he said.
Whitehead also explained the problems that arise from this definition when material is exported under the Trans-frontier Shipment Regulations, introduced in 2007. He said that traders must declare otherwise commercially confidential material which put them at a competitive disadvantage.
However, he said there was hope for reclassification of recovered metals in a new EU Waste Framework. But he called on the UK Government to press for an early adoption of the revisions, which could take four years to finalise. He said that action could be taken earlier following a draft report by the EU Commission on an end-of-waste scrap metal case study, which he interpreted: If excess material from a primary production process can be used directly in a further primary production process it can be considered as outside the definition of waste and is a by-product. The UK should take up what is effectively an open invitation to reclassify shavings and off cuts in advance of a decision on the new framework.
The second reading of the European Waste Directive is due in June.