Defra clarifies new recycling laws

Local authorities will have to collect some recyclables "by way of separate collection" under new EU waste laws, the government has confirmed.

In a letter to local authorities, parliamentary under secretary Lord DeMauley attempts to clarify the amended waste regulations that will come into force in 2015 and what it means for recycling collections.

The letter reminds local authorities of the amended Waste Frame Workwork Directive, which will mean that comingled collections of dry recyclables will not be permissible in all circumstances.

DeMauley writes: “It appears that some local authorities may be taking the view that comingled collections of paper, glass, plastic and metal waste streams will remain permissible in all circumstances after 1 January 2015. I therefore thought it would be helpful now to remind local authorities of the effect of the regulations.”

DeMauley goes on to explain that from 2015 waste paper, metal, plastic or glass must be collected “by way of a separate collection”. These requirements apply where separate collection is necessary, in effect, to provide high quality recyclates, and is technically, environmentally and economically practicable.

The letter also states that all “reasonable steps” must be taken to keep that stream separate from other waste streams in order to provide high quality recyclates.

DeMauley praised local authorities for the increases in recycling levels, citing the rise from 11% in 2000 to 43% currently. However, the rates have slowed, he adds, and “this is not time for complacency”.

The letter continues: “To reach our EU target, recycling 50 percent of all household waste by 2020, will require sustained effort and, whilst we have seen the amount of recycling increase, this has not been accompanied by an increase in the quality of recyclates coming through.

“To build up our local and rural economies we want our domestic glass and paper industries to be able to rely on a consistent supply of a good standard of recyclates produced here, without resorting to imports. Local authorities have an important role to play in achieving this, but they will need good information about what happens to the recyclates they collect.”

DeMauley highlighted the issues faced at MRFs, many of which “struggle to keep glass shards out of the paper stream [and] produce low quality mixed glass, which needs further sorting and can be uneconomic to re-smelt.

“I look to local authorities actively to address these problems, by the effective implementation of the new regulations and by tackling problems with operating practices,” DeMauley writes.

This autumn the government is expected to published its MRF code of practice. Under the proposals, MRF operators will be required to measure the quality of the input, output and residual waste streams. Information on quality will then be made available, via the Environment Agency, to local authorities and reprocessors. In its draft form the proposed code will not set minimum quality standards.

The revised Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC) in effect requires member states to set up separate collection where necessary and practicable. The government and Welsh government transposed these requirements through the Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2011, as amended by the Waste (England and Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2012.

In Scotland, the Waste (Scotland) Regulations, which come into force in January 2014, businesses will be required to present certain materials for separate collection, while local authorities must “provide a minimum recycling service to householders” and “take all reasonable steps to ensure the separate collection of dry recyclables”, according to regulator SEPA.

Metal, glass, plastic, paper and card (including cardboard). Separate collection means each waste stream in a different container or sorted at the kerbside, and comingling is permitted where quality is not “significantly less”.

edie staff

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie