Defra clarifies stance on separate recycling collections

Amended regulations which seek to impose a legal duty on waste companies and local authorities to separately collect paper, metal, plastic and glass by 2015 have been laid before Parliament today.

The proposals, if approved, will apply to both household and commercial/industrial waste streams in England and Wales when they come into force on 1 October 2012.

However, flexibility has been built into the regulations in the form of an exemption if collection operators can prove that a co-mingled approach will achieve certain quality standards, or if the establishment of a separate collection system is not possible.

Defra has amended the regulations in response to an on-going legal battle over the issue of separate versus co-mingled collections. It faced the prospect of a Judicial Review, but proceedings were adjourned by the High Court in December to allow time for the department to revise the wording.

In its consultation summary report, Defra stated: “We accepted we needed to amend these regulations as a result of a Judicial Review on the transposition of the requirements of the revised Waste Framework Directive … as drafted, the regulations did not accurately reflect those requirements”.

It added that it hoped the amendments would “allow us to draw a line under the current legal process, and work more constructively with all parts of the recycling supply chain to deliver more and better quality recycling”.

If approved by both Parliament and the Welsh Assembly, the regulations will transpose into domestic law the requirements of the EU Waste Framework Directive for separate collections of certain materials by 2015.

The news has been welcomed by the Environmental Services Association (ESA) who is hoping for a speedy resolution on the matter.

ESA’s director of policy, Matthew Farrow, said: “In our view the new regulations are workable on the ground and appear to be consistent with recent guidance from the European Commission on separate and co-mingled collection.”

Maxine Perella

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