MRF proposals leave regime open to abuse, critics argue

Industry leaders have broadly welcomed the Government's consultation on the MRF code of practice and quality action plan, but some have questioned whether the proposals for sampling, auditing and inspection can deliver a credible scheme.

Responding to last week’s launch by Resources Management Minister Lord de Mauley, the Resource Association’s chief executive Ray Georgeson said: “Placing the regulation of recyclate quality at MRFs onto a statutory footing is a welcome step and we applaud it as a potential step forward for recyclate quality.”

But he described the sampling, auditing and inspection proposals as “wholly inadequate to deliver the robust regulatory regime” the Government needs in order to meet the revised Waste Framework Directive requirements.

“We believe that the proposed regime will be easily circumvented by rogue operators and the lack of unannounced inspection leaves the regime open to abuse,” Georgeson argued.

Closed Loop Recycling’s chief executive Chris Dow concurred on inspections.

“Independent audits should be unannounced and should include physical sampling by the independent auditor,” he added. “Without this check, illegal exporters would be able to create false but seemingly compliant sampling documentation.”

Dow also suggested that the audit should include a holistic view of ISO systems documentation and customer feedback regarding quality.

Tomara Sorting UK’s country manager Jonathan Clarke said that the code did not appear to apply to MRFs taking waste from construction and industrial sources and called for further clarification.

“With the growth in C&I MRFs we would need to understand how, or if, the code would be used in this area,” he said.

But recycling operations manager at ACE UK Fay Dasher welcomed the proposals.

She said: “By demonstrating that co-mingled collection of dry recyclables followed by sorting at the MRF can deliver the requirements of the Waste Framework Directive and promote high quality recycling, the code is the waste industry’s opportunity to increase recycling participation rates, reduce landfill, and ultimately support a more resource efficient value chain.”

Environmental Services Association (ESA) policy director Matthew Farrow said he was delighted that ministers had listened to the ESA and were proposing a system of mandatory sampling and auditing of material entering into and being produced by MRFs.

He said: “Overall we are confident that the code will ensure that the MRF market is transparent and efficient, and ensures that the MRFs are producing material which meets the needs of all their customers.”

The Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM) chief executive Steve Lee also welcomed the announcement and said the code and action plan were a good starting point to drive standards.

“Many MRFs in the industry will be confident that their quality management standards already meet and exceed those required by the new code of practice, but for those that do not CIWM will provide support for the move towards an enhanced level of standards across the industry,” he argued.

Under the proposals, the Code of Practice will be a permit condition and a mandatory for MRFs, while aspects of the Quality Action Plan, such as the idea of grading recyclate, will be voluntary.

The minister’s launch last week marks the start of a 12-week consultation period, seeking views on the MRF code of practice, a national quality action plan and an impact assessment on changes to regulations. The deadline for responses is 26 April.

Nick Warburton

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