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Waste hierarchy to be legally enforced says revised Waste Framework Directive consultation

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) opened a second consultation on the implementation of the Waste Framework Directive into UK law today. The consultation is seeking responses from stakeholders on the interpretation and implementation of a number of policies which must be incorporated into UK law by 12 December.

Under the revised Directive, the five-point ‘waste hierarchy’ – which prioritises prevention and reuse over recycling, recovery and disposal – will be passed into law, setting the priority of future waste management policy and legislation towards the minimisation of waste.

The news was welcomed by anaerobic digestion and biogas association (ADBA) chairman Lord Rupert Redesdale, who told MRW: “We have always said that anaerobic digestion (AD) is not a silver bullet, it is just a very good solution to part of the problem. If you can prevent waste in the first place then we would applaud that. But you have got to remember that ‘zero waste’ does not mean absolutely no waste at all and we believe that although recovery may be second from bottom of the waste hierachy, of the recovery solutions AD is actually top in terms of what it can do.”

In a consultation report produced by Defra and the Welsh Assembly Government, Defra proposes plans to update the national planning policy by ensuring that local waste development frameworks are ‘key vehicles’ for the delivery of waste infrastructure within the bounds of the forthcoming waste hierarchy.

The revised framework will enforce a number of waste management practices which are already widely adopted, including the separate collection of paper, plastic bottles, metal and glass either through kerbside sort or commingled collections, in preparation for separate processing at a MRF. Additionally, the measure will enforce waste management firms and local authorities’ provision of separate waste collections for paper, plastic bottles, metal and glass for commercial and industrial premises by 2015.

The Directive will also pass statutory recycling and waste diversion targets into law for the first time, including a recycling target for 50% of household waste – targets which are already expected to be reached.

In today’s consultation, Defra is proposing fines of up to £250,000 for companies and £300 for individuals found not offering separate waste collections for plastics, glass, metals and paper to commercial and industrial premises.

The consultation is also proposing to redefine ‘recycling’ to include “organic material which is reprocessed into a material or product which meets our national end-of-waste criteria for compost and digestate”, which could artificially increase the UK’s recycling figures.

The forthcoming legislation calls for a 70% reduction of construction and demolition waste from landfill by 2020. According to the consultation report, many respondents called for a wider uptake of site waste management plans (SWMPs) across the C&I sectors to help reduce construction waste and aid the landfill diversion targets.

However, Defra rejected a wider roll-out of SWMPS due to “significant administrative and financial burdens for the very large number of businesses which could be affected”, and instead commented that “other options could deliver the same outcomes at lower cost and effort”.

The announcement of the consultation was welcomed by the Environmental Services Association. A spokesman said: “We look forward to working with the Government to ensure that the Directive is implemented in a timely and transparent way, and provides a clear and precise legal framework which incentivises the recovery of materials and energy from the waste stream.”

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