The Resource Association has said that the recycling industry and local authorities should focus on quality following a letter sent to councils from Lord de Mauley.
In the letter, published this month before he switched roles in Defra away from recycling, Lord de Mauley warned councils of their legal responsibilities that separate collections of paper, plastics, glass and metal should be considered the default position where separate collection is:
a) Necessary in effect to provide high quality recyclates and
b) Is technically, environmentally and economically practicable (known as TEEP).
Resource Association chief executive Ray Georgeson said: “The Resource Associaton is pleased that Defra has taken this step to highlight the actual impact of the forthcoming regulations but it should have come as no surprise to anyone, as this was always clear from a careful read of the regulations and indeed the judgment laid down in the Judicial Review on this issue earlier in the year. When some leaders in local government and the waste industry called the outcome of the Judicial Review a ‘victory for common sense’ and chose to interpret it publicly as a licence to commingle in all circumstances they did the industry a great disservice that Defra has now been obliged to counter.
“It is a pity though that this important letter was not accompanied by the long awaited TEEP guidance and even the detailed outcome and timetable for the MRF regulations as on its own this letter probably raises more questions than it answers. The onus has clearly been placed upon local authorities to ensure they fulfil their legal duties from 2015 and so the publication of the TEEP guidance is now a pressing need.
“The polarisation in this debate hasn’t helped. It is clear that the regulations are not a licence to commingle in all circumstances, but neither are they an imposition of four separate bins for four separate materials as has been reported in several national newspapers.
“We urge everyone to return to basics and remember why all of this is so important. Capturing more and higher quality recyclate from households is vital for the health of our UK manufacturing sector that needs these materials as well as improving our credibility as an exporter of legal, compliant materials to the growing markets of the world. It creates jobs, reduces carbon impacts, minimises landfill and generates environmental action in public.
“Public support for recycling has been hard won and not a completed victory, and we would do well to remember that we still need to maintain and generate the confidence of the public that we manage and recycle materials well, know where they are going and can demonstrate the benefits.”
He added that a clear timetable for the publication of the TEEP guidance and MRF regulations is needed and will provide the reprocessing sector and local authorities with a testing regulatory regime that is robust and defendable.
“For any commingled collections that continue after January 2015, the regulatory regime in the MRF regulations will need to demonstrate that material collected and then sorted at a MRF has been produced in a way that allows them to be regarded as ‘source separated equivalent’ and therefore compliant with the basis upon which Defra transposed the revised Waste Framework Directive to allow continued commingling in some circumstances,” he added.
“The onus is now on Defra to deliver this with the same vehemence with which Lord de Mauley’s letter has put the onus firmly back onto local authorities to ensure their collection systems are legally compliant from 1 January 2015.”