Defra’s head of waste Colin Church said the department did not feel setting quality standards within the code was its role, despite demand from reprocessors for such an industry benchmark.

Speaking at an Associate Parliamentary Sustainable Resource Group meeting in Westminster yesterday, Church told delegates: “What is the right quality standard for the different types of materials coming out of MRFs? This would be too problematic and would take too long to implement.”

He did however point out that a grading system for certain material types, provided they were collected and processed in a consistent way across the industry, “could be feasible”.

Church also gave his clearest indication yet that the code would be mandatory, which many in the industry have been campaigning for. He said the code would cover any MRF that was subject to environmental permitting regulations, and that this would include materials from commercial and industrial streams as well as municipal.

“We are still intending to consult on the idea of a mandatory code of practice. Its aim will be to address key market failures around the lack of information on material quality coming out of MRFs,” he told delegates.

It is believed the code, which has been hit by a series of delays, will surface shortly alongside a quality action plan for recycling. Church said both documents had been approved by Resource Minister Lord de Mauley and were “ready to go” subject to final internal approval processes at Defra.

The quality action plan will look to address the current packaging waste recovery notes (PRN) system, which many UK reprocessors feel disadvantaged by.

Delegates at the meeting voiced their support for the MRF code of practice. Viridor director Herman Van der Meji said it will “help our industry to create quality … quality will decide the future markets 100%”.

This sentiment was shared by British Plastics Federation director general Peter Davis. “The MRF code of practice will certainly assist us. If UK reprocessors could get more support from the PRN system, they could demand higher prices.”

Maxine Perella

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