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UK interpretation of TEEP challenged by MEPs

2000 kings lynn west norfolk bin collections

The European Parliament’s draft position on the circular economy (CE) package includes proposals that would cause a major shift in UK collections if implemented.

Rapporteur Simona Bonafe’s report includes a reinforcement of segregated collections rather than the commingled operations which are more widely preferred in the UK.

For example, the London Borough of Ealing is this month introducing a mixed recycling system where plastics, metals, paper and glass go into the same bin.

Current EU regulations instruct member states to collect these streams separately but allow commingling if not technically, environmentally and economically practicable (TEEP).

The Commission’s CE package, published in December, maintained the use of TEEP, including for the additional stream of food waste.

But proposed amendments in Bonafe’s report would remove TEEP, saying the exemption has produced “widely differing results” across member states regarding implementation of separate collections.

“Collection of pre-sorted waste is one of the tools supporting the creation of a high-quality recycling market and the attainment of high levels of recycling,” Bonafe’s report says.

“The introduction of technical, environmental and financial limits has allowed numerous exemptions, rendering application of this principle impossible.”

Resource Association chief executive Ray Georgeson described the above statement as “telling” and said it would be “interesting to see the emerging debate” about the proposed removal of TEEP restrictions.

“We concur with this view and look forward to the next level of debate about this important element in the delivery of the circular economy – the best ways to provide consistent high quality materials to manufacturers and reprocessors, especially in the context of the move in England to encourage local authorities towards greater consistency in household recycling collections.”

Karl Falkenberg

Karl Falkenberg 2015

The Commission’s former director-general for environment Karl Falkenberg (pictured) singled out the UK at last year’s RWM for having a “peculiar approach” to separate collections.

“All of Europe minus the UK tells me that separate collections are key. In the UK there is the approach that we can separate commingled waste as effectively,” he said.

But Grundon deputy chairman Neil Grundon responded to Falkenberg’s comments, saying it was simpler for customers to have one commingled dry recyclable collection and for the industry to invest in MRFs to separate the different streams quickly and efficiently.

Bonafe’s report will be discussed and voted on by her committee in November before going to a full plenary vote early next year, when it will be adopted as the European Parliament’s position.

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