The long-awaited MRF regulations have formally been laid before Parliament.
The code is being put forward as part of amendments to the Environmental Permitting Regulationswhich will come into effect in October.
Following criticism in the consultation that the code’s definition of a MRF was not clear enough, Defra said it acknowledged the need for “more clarity”.
The final version has been amended to ensure that “certain facilities” such as mechanical biological treatment (MBT), facilities handling construction waste and reprocessors, are not captured.
As outlined the consultation, the code will apply to MRFs handling more than 1,000 tonnes a year.
But Defra said it would continue “to keep this under review to allay concerns that this could create a potential loophole”.
The regulations have been broadly supported by the waste industry, but Resource Association chief executive Ray Georgeson said four times more sampling needed to take place at MRFs than has been outlined in the code.
Sampling is a key measure under the code, where MRF operators will be required to check the composition of material from its suppliers.
Georgeson said the regulations should be a way of “addressing market failure” in the sector but added: “Our instincts are that the proposed regulations still fall a long way short of delivering that overall objective.
“They may prove to be so weak and easy to circumvent by rogue operators that they will not necessarily deliver confidence to reprocessors and the wider market that the data is worthwhile and useful.”
Georgeson added the role of the Environment Agency was ‘critical’.
He said: “They now need to come forward quickly with the proposed consultation on charging and permitting, and the practical application of guidance on sampling and monitoring of MRF operations.
“Robust implementation of weak regulations is not ideal, but it will go some way to bringing just a little confidence to the current approach of Government.”
Jonathan Short, deputy chair of ECO Plastics, was also critical of the sampling frequencies and warned regulations were “only as valuable as the inspection process used to enforce them”.
Environmental Services Association (ESA) director general Barry Dennis said: “ESA and its Members have worked hard for a number of years to promote best practice at MRFs and to create a level playing field across the sector.
“We are pleased that the regulations build on ESA’s previous work on a MRF Code of Practice to set high standards for sampling across the industry, are mandatory and will be enforced by the Environment Agency.
“The transparency requirements in the regulations will reward the commitment to quality shown by ESA members by highlighting good performing MRFs.”
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- Industry reaction to launch
MRF Code of Practice Regs laid in England and Wales as amendments to Environmental Permitting Regs.
— Colin Church (@DrColinChurch) February 12, 2014
I welcome the new mandatory MRF regs as a positive step in driving the quality agenda for recycling! Now we need strong EA supervision!
— David Palmer-Jones (@DPJ_SITAUK) February 12, 2014