Judicial Review rules in favour of commingled waste collections

Recycling campaigners were dealt a blow today when a judge ruled in favour of Defra and the Welsh Assembly that commingled collections would be permissable in England and Wales under EU law.

Mr Justice Hickinbottom dismissed allegations by the claimants, the Campaign for Real Recycling, that the interpretation of the revised EU Waste Framework Directive (WFD) had not been fully transposed into the waste regulations for England and Wales.

The Campaign for Real Recycling, which is backed by several leading reprocessors, has said it is considering appealing the decision. It has long been a stanch advocate of source-segregated collections, maintaining that they deliver higher recyclate quality and value.

In his ruling at Birmingham Civil Justice Centre, Justice Hickinbottom confirmed that he saw no justification for referring the decision to the European court. The outcome has been welcomed by both governments and industry trade associations.

The Environmental Services Association (ESA) said it was “pleased” with the ruling. Director general Barry Dennis said: “The ESA has always believed that both the directive and the revised Defra regulations recognise that decisions over local collection methods are complex and that local discretion over the format of recycling collections is needed to ensure that the directive’s objectives are met.”

Echoing this, the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM) chief executive Steve Lee said that common sense had prevailed.

“This case has been useful in highlighting the issue of quality recycling and bringing it to the top of the agenda. CIWM has always maintained there is no one-size-fits-all solution … the decision brings a welcome end to a period of uncertainty for local authorities.”

In his judgment, Justice Hickinbottom found that the obligation in the WFD to set up separate collection of paper, metal, plastic and glass from 2015 applies only where it is necessary to ensure waste undergoes recovery operations and to facilitate and improve recovery and is also technically, environmentally and economically practicable.

Maxine Perella

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