Birmingham City Council has said it is ‘confident’ it will meet the terms of the Waste Framework Directive as it committed itself to a dual-stream commingled collection system over the long term.
Under the directive the UK is expected to instigate fully separated collections from 1 January 2015 unless it can be demonstrated not to be ‘technically, environmentally or economically practicable’ (TEEP).
Nevertheless the authority struck a £1.4m deal with bin manufacturer Straight Plc to supply over 300,000 wheeled bins between May 2014 and November 2015 that are designed to collect paper separately, with other materials being commingled.
This is a continuation of current policy for the authority, which is the largest council in the UK.
A council spokesperson said: “The full details of our proposed scheme were considered by the Department for Communities and Local Government and Defra when they made an award of nearly £30m funding to the city council under the Weekly Collection Support Scheme and we are confident, in consideration of all our circumstances, and particularly our current waste disposal arrangements, that the scheme meets the requirements established and expected by TEEP.”
Earlier this year UK Recyclate, a member of the Campaign for Real Recycling (CRR), sent letters to councils it expects to go down the commingled collection route warning they could be leaving themselves open to legal challenge.
CRR co-ordinator Andy Moore has now indicated to MRW his priority is now on councils that fully commingle, not those that have dual-stream collections.
Jonathan Straight, chief executive of Straight Plc, said: “We believe that there is a low level of concern [over legal action] with some local authorities. In general, purchasing decisions are not being postponed.”
Although a supporter of separated collections, Straight stressed it was up to local authorities what methods they chose.
He said: “Straight Plc is a manufacturer and supplier of a broad range of equipment for the source separation of waste materials.
“Which materials are collected, the degree of sorting of these materials and the appropriateness of the policy to local circumstances is something each authority must consider for itself.”
Meanwhile, the Hertfordshire Waste Partnership (HWP) has said it is drawing up its own TEEP guidance, following a similar announcement by East Cambridgeshire District Council in January.
HWP development manager Duncan Jones said: “The guidance is being put together based on the collective experience of the officers in the HWP.
“At the appropriate time we will then seek external views to try and improve our approach further. However, as in all things there is never anyway to be certain that someone won’t mount a legal challenge.
“Currently commingling in Hertfordshire includes those that are fully commingled as well as those that keep news and pams separate.”
Last month Defra confirmed it would not release any TEEP guidance, instead leaving it up to local authorities to make their own way.
Industry bodies such as Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM) and the Environmental Services Association had previously warned that councils needed guidance on how they can continue commingled collections while keeping within the new law.
Last year Steve Lee, chief executive of CIWM, said: “Given the lead time for setting up new collection systems and contracts, (councils) need it sooner rather than later.”