Defra faces growing calls to make MRF code of practice mandatory

The proposed code of practice for materials recycling facilities (MRFs) needs to be mandatory to ensure a level playing field and to protect responsible operators who could be put at competitive risk by those that refuse to sign up to a voluntary code.

That is the message that many in the industry are relaying to Defra who is due to decide later this year whether the code should be mandatory rather than voluntary.

Defra announced in June that it would be conducting a cost-benefit analysis on the options over the summer before making its final decision in the autumn. Should it decide to make the code mandatory, industry will be consulted before its implementation.

The CBI’s senior policy adviser, Hayley Conboy, said it supported a mandatory code of practice because it was “an opportunity to help create a level playing field for the majority of materials recycling facilities that already operate at a highly efficient sorting level.”

She added: “The higher the industry standard as whole, the more demand for recycled materials will grow while a voluntary approach could put responsible operators at competitive risk from those that refuse to sign up.”

The Environmental Services Association’s policy adviser, David Sher, echoed this view and said the ESA wanted to raise the bar across the board. But he warned that there were costs to firms in implementing the procedures necessary to strengthen their internal systems.

“Unless the code is mandatory, it may become more difficult for the MRFs complying with the code to compete with a non-compliant facility for local authority business and there may be a disincentive for operators to sign up,” he explained.

“It needs to be mandatory if there is to be level playing field for operators and a clear framework within which local authorities can compare bids.”

The proposed code of practice will include a quality management system. There will also be independent verification, where a third party will audit the system and carry out checks.

Defra has suggested that the final code will not specify contamination levels. Instead, it will be left to MRF operators and their partners to determine the quality of the input and output material as part of their contracts.

Nick Warburton

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