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Defra concern at councils' waste data

Defra has urged local authorities in England to tackle late reporting of data for WasteDataFlow, the web-based system by which municipal waste arisings and other information is logged.

The concern is raised in the minutes of the latest meeting of the user group for England, which took place in July, attended by representatives of Defra, local authorities and WRAP.

“Late reporting is still a problem. Defra is continuing to provide support and guidance to those authorities which are struggling to adhere to the deadlines, but Defra has recently sent letters to some LAs outlining their obligation under the Waste and Emissions Trading Act to provide this information in a timely manner,” the minutes say.

Defra is concerned that any delays in the submission of fourth quarter data may hit the department’s ability to publish annual statistics on time in November.

The minutes go on: “Potential ways to improve the timeliness of reporting are currently being investigated and any feedback from users is welcomed.

“Any local authority which believes that it might miss a deadline is asked to contact the WasteDataFlow helpdesk so that support can be provided.”

The Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (Larac) said the software had become a “hugely bureaucratic burden” and had become more difficult to use since changes were made to it last year.

One such change was the requirement for councils to report the final destination of all their collected household waste under ’question 100’ on the software, which Larac chair Andrew Bird (pictured) said was complicated for some councils.

“The additional questions have been put in for absolutely the right reasons. But I think, fundamentally, the system that sits behind it is very old now and I suspect that is one of the major problems with it.

“Filling in the data is a laborious time-consuming task, often resulting in the system crashing, you losing all your data and having to start again.”

andrew bird larac

andrew bird larac

He said that while it was relatively simple for his authority, Newcastle-under-Lyme, to retrieve the final destination data, it was more difficult for councils whose household waste is sent to reprocessors via a third party rather than directly.

In those situations, commercial confidentiality can become a blocker, he said.

At RWM last year, Ricardo Energy & Environment’s principal consultant Simone Aplin warned that the software’s accuracy could slip due to continued council budget cuts.

Aplin said she had spoken to council officers who said they liked WasteDataFlow but questioned whether it would be updated as regularly due to potential cuts.

In February, Defra proposed reducing its publication of English council waste collection statistics to yearly, with the last quarterly figures released in March.

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