Waste industry awaits verdict of Judicial Review hearing

The future of commingled recycled collections could be decided in the next few weeks after the judge overseeing the Judicial Review ended the hearing in Cardiff on Tuesday (26 February) to consider his verdict.

Mr Justice Hickinbottom listened to evidence from both sides in the dispute, which centres on the Government’s proposed transposition of the revised Waste Framework Directive (rWFD).

The claimants, six members of the Campaign for Real Recycling, outlined their case on Monday, arguing that the rWFD has not been transposed into UK law correctly. They claim that Defra has misinterpreted the wording in Article 11 of the rWFD and allowed commingled recycling collections when they should be ruled out.

Chair of the Campaign for Real Recycling Mal Williams said ahead of the hearing: “We maintain that separate collections, as required by the Waste Framework Directive, are the best way forward in both economic and environmental terms.”

Williams said the hearing represented an opportunity to clarify what constitutes separate collection and high quality recycling.

“Some changes may be needed as a result of this review, and this may not be welcome news for everyone,” he added.

“However, we feel certain that these will be changes toward better value for money and resources, as evidenced by government reports, and that local authorities and communities will see more and real benefits over time.”

On Tuesday, Clive Lewis QC, who represented Defra and the Welsh Government, argued that the proposed transposition accurately reflects the rWFD’s provisions.

He pointed to its requirement for member states to reach a 50% reuse and recycling rate by 2020 and said that this target may not be possible if commingled collections are not allowed, claiming that they tend to capture greater volumes of material.

On the same day, Veolia Environmental Services’ chief executive Estelle Brachlianoff backed Defra’s position in a press release.

“Our daily experience tells us that the most effective way to collect materials is through commingled collections – particularly in urban areas,” she said. “It’s simpler for residents, ensures higher recycling yields and means fewer bins.”

The Judicial Review could be referred to the European Courts of Justice, although most commentators felt that this would be unlikely as it would prolong the outcome of the case until after the 2015 date when the requirements of the rWFD come into force.

The Environmental Services Association and Local Government Association also provided evidence at the hearing, which was originally scheduled to last four days but concluded on the second day.

Nick Warburton

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