Defra decision on MRF code of practice expected shortly

Calls are growing for a proposed voluntary code that governs best practice among materials recycling facilities (MRFs) to become compulsory, as rumours gather that Defra is set to reach a decision on the matter.

Defra’s announcement on whether the MRF Code of Practice (CoP) would be made mandatory was expected last Autumn, but the decision was put back while the department conducted a cost-benefit analysis on the options.

Now edieWaste has learnt that Defra is holding meetings this month to discuss its position – some industry observers believe this is a strong indication that ministers have reached a conclusion and will release a statement in the coming weeks.

The CoP, which has been drawn by up the Environmental Services Association, will require quality input and output materials to be measured – giving MRF customers such as local authorities and reprocessors greater confidence in material quality and contamination levels.

However as it stands, MRF operators currently have no obligation to sign up to the code. This has led to concerns that responsible operators could be put at competitive risk by those that refuse to comply with it.

One commentator who works in frontline recycling operations and chose to remain anonymous said: “It certainly can’t be self-regulated and [there is a] need to have random inspections, otherwise it is totally worthless.” Another frontline operator – who works in a MRF – added that “unless it is made mandatory, it may not be worth having a view.”

Meanwhile Mal Williams, CEO of Cylch – the Wales Community Recycling Network – maintained that the CoP to work, it had to be made compulsory and independently verified.

He said: “Only statutory standards will work, self-regulation never does. The standards must be externally set, externally monitored and externally policed for the general public to have any confidence in them.”

Maxine Perella

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