Business waits to see if MRF regulations have 'closed loop clout'
Business leaders have cautiously welcomed Defra's announcement today that regulations to improve material recycling standards have been laid in Parliament.
Under the new code of practice, mandatory quality requirements for all materials recovery facilities (MRFs) will be introduced from October 2014 in a bid to encourage greater transparency across the reprocessing supply chain.
All MRFs that process more than 1,000 tonnes of material in England and Wales will be required to measure both input and output quality levels, as well as allow businesses to inspect samples of recyclates.
Talking to edie, John Lewis Partnership's manager for waste and water resource Mike Walters said the move could potentially be beneficial for businesses who are looking to actively close the loop on their waste streams.
"We actively look to minimise what goes through a MRF as we want to safeguard traceability of our material. Having said that, this development if implemented and regulated properly should lead to higher quality outputs and allow businesses to perhaps reconsider the material that comes out of a MRF if they wanted to take certain materials back into their supply chain for remanufacture," he said.
For John Lewis, waste prevention is the priority and any recycling is source-segregated wherever possible in order to guarantee a higher quality recyclate.
Walters added that while he would support better processes and technology in older MRFs in order to guarantee better quality levels, he wouldn't want enforcement of the new regulations to result in wholesale MRF closures.
"If many MRF operators went out of business because ultimately they couldn't meet the new standards, I don't think that would beneficial right now given so much waste is still going to landfill in the UK," he maintained.
Meanwhile Coca-Cola Enterprises' (CCE) reprocessing partner ECO Plastics has applauded the move as an essential first step, but expressed disappointment that the regulations haven't been backed up with other key measures.
ECO Plastics' founder Jonathan Short pointed out that the regulations would only be as valuable as the inspection process used to enforce them.
"The sampling quantities and frequency of testing envisioned is a long way below what is needed to come close to robustly measuring the quality of inputs and outputs," he argued.
"There is a very real concern that MRFs that do not wish to comply will be able to flout the rules because of the extent to which the process has been watered down."
He added that the joint venture with CCE is founded on his company being able to deliver stringent customer quality requirement. This means carrying out assessments on 30% of the material that enters through its gates, with a goal to reach 100% by the autumn.
Meanwhile Resource Association chief executive Ray Georgeson expressed concern that the new regulations wouldn't be robust enough within the context of working towards a circular economy.
"The circular economy will operate more effectively with high quality manufacturing processes that are more efficient and sustainable when fed with consistently high quality feedstock. This point appears to have been de-prioritised in these regulations," he said.