Earlier this month, the Defra minister for natural environment and science, previously resource minister, wrote to councils to warn them about the effect of the Waste (England and Wales Amendments) Regulations 2012, which are due to come into force in 2015.

He reminded local authorities that commingled collections of dry recyclables will not be permissible in all circumstances and that reasonable steps must be taken to ensure that waste streams are kept separate from each other to provide high quality recyclables.

The Local Government Association (LGA) hit back at Lord de Mauley’s letter and wrote to Environment Secretary Owen Patterson, telling him that a message from his junior minister advising councils to recycle more efficiently was “unhelpful”.

LGA Environment and Housing Board chairman Mike Jones said the letter “will only cause confusion among councils and the industry in their interpretation of the legal framework”. In his letter to Patterson, he points out that under the EU Waste Framework Directive waste only needs to be collected separately “if technically, environmentally and economically practicable (TEEP)”.

Jones also argued that Lord de Mauley’s advice had no legal basis and councils should be able to decide locally if they needed to change collection practices.

Lord de Mauley’s letter raised concerns that householders would need to have more bins. However, in his letter he wrote that “separate collection does not of course mean that each household will need more bins”. He said that “many areas have kerbside sort systems where materials are sorted before being loaded into the waste collection vehicle”.

South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse district strategic director Matt Prosser said it would cost around £1m in start-up costs alone to provide another bin to the 108,000 properties his councils cover, in addition to its three-container system operation.

He said: “Our residents told us they basically just want us to make it as simple as possible to recycle. If we had to make a change, I suspect in some quarters it would not be favourably received. It’s another bin and that takes away from the simplicity of things.”

Although CIWM chief executive Steve Lee welcomed Lord de Mauley’s letter, he said councils needed guidance on what was “technically, environmentally and economically practicable”. He added: “Local authorities need further guidance on this to ensure that they can ‘fulfil their legal duties from 2015’, as specified by Lord de Mauley in his letter. And given the lead time for setting up new collection systems and contracts, they need it sooner rather than later.”

However, DS Smith Recycling European sales and purchasing director Jim Malone fully supported the contents of Defra’s letter and said it provided clear guidance of the regulations that will be implemented from the beginning of 2015.

DS Smith Recycling managing director Peter McGuinness said: “Driving up the quality of materials means more materials that UK businesses can use in manufacturing processes, helping to boost the UK economy and create jobs. It also means vital resources are kept in use in the economy longer.”

Liz Gyekye

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