Councils need clear policy steer on recycling

Ongoing tensions over local authority collection methods and frequency must be resolved as a matter of urgency, according to the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM).

Yesterday, the CIWM released Professional Perspectives on Waste & Resource Management, an in-depth study of waste and resource management across the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

The study draws on CIWM member and institution views and identifies quality issues as paramount in terms of service delivery and recycling performance.

Launching the report at his inauguration at the House of Commons, the CIWM’s new president John Skidmore said: “Quality of materials as well as methods and frequencies of collection continue to be one of the dominant topics for the sector.

“While Wales and Scotland have given clear policy steers on some of these issues, recent wrangles over England’s interpretation of the Waste Framework Directive have created a degree of uncertainty for local authorities and other stakeholders, which CIWM believes needs to be resolved as a matter of priority.”

Skidmore added that tension in England between different government departments, between central and local objectives, has also been unhelpful.

“The CIWM was clear in its response to the announcement of the weekly collection support scheme by the Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government and we still believe that a quarter of a billion pounds could have been put to better use by councils in collecting and treating household waste,” he said.

According to the CIWM report, on-going debates about co-mingled versus kerbside sort, have generated considerable interest in the waste sector, prompting the Campaign for Real Recycling to seek a judicial review.

But despite clarification from the European Commission that co-mingled collections are permissible provided that high quality outputs are produced, CIWM says England and Wales are likely to take different approaches.

Wales is most likely to require its local authorities to provide source segregated collections. However, in England the Department for the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) has said that rather than ban the use of co-mingled collections, the focus will be on ensuring quality input and outputs.

Despite this clarification, the judicial review continues, adding uncertainty to the sector regarding collection types.

Skidmore told guests that while the quality of services and recovered materials was paramount, the CIWM does not believe in a one-size-fits-all approach solution. He said that the waste industry needs to focus on the desired outcome rather than getting mired in arguments about the means.

“With over half of local authorities operating co-mingled collections, for example, it is essential that we develop a range of mechanisms to improve quality, including the much-anticipated MRF code of practice.”

The study also found that waste prevention and reuse are the most pressing issues facing the waste industry over the next five years.

Nick Warburton

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