Mr Justice Hickinbottom saved Defra from a huge headache on Wednesday when he backed the interpretation by its officials, and those in the Welsh Government, of the revised Waste Directive Framework (rWFD).
Notwithstanding an appeal from the Campaign for Real Recycling, we now know that separate collections of paper, metal, plastic and glass from 2015 are required only where it is “technically, environmentally and economically practicable” and necessary to meet the required standards of reprocessors. In other words, a green light for commingled collections.
This is not the place to go over the arguments for and against the interpretation heard by the learned judge in Cardiff last week. But those readers representing a wide spectrum of the resource management industry will – like Defra – be mightily relieved that commingling can continue. Chartered Institution of Wastes Management president John Skidmore, for example, said commonsense had prevailed.
But there will be many who will be appalled at the verdict, especially those who process recyclate of questionable quality. For their sake, those who backed the Defra interpretation must recognise it remains an absolute responsibility to deliver secondary materials of the highest quality. As Skidmore puts it: “We need to use [the] decision as a springboard for action and not an armchair to sit back and relax in.”
On another matter, MRW takes a detailed look at landfill mining. No-one doubts that material shunted underground can have a value but until now such activity has been limited to non-economic drivers. Just how practicable is it to extract value?
MRW’s Neil Roberts revealed that the Scottish Government has commissioned a study into the viability of mining materials from landfill, his being the first report on the subject but subsequently picked up by the Daily Express on Wednesday.