Environment Agency launches consultation on higher MRF charges

Proposed fee of £4,154 to cover regulation of qualifying materials facilities to coincide with new sampling rules from October 2024

Materials Recycling FacilityWith new waste sampling and reporting rules coming into effect later this year, the Environment Agency (EA) has opened a consultation on increased charges for affected facilities to fully cover the associated costs of regulation.

The planned charges apply to facilities that annually receive over 1,000 tonnes of municipal-like recyclable material, such as glass, metal, paper, or plastic. Additionally, the EA proposes a shift in the billing process for the additional subsistence charge, transitioning from arrears billing for the preceding calendar year to advance billing in March for the subsequent financial year. This proposed change seeks to streamline the billing process, aligning it with other environmental permit subsistence charges and creating efficiency savings for the agency and its stakeholders.

This charge, which will almost double to £4,154, will fully encompass the costs associated with regulatory compliance, statutory duties, and enhancements to the digital reporting system.

The consultation invites responses to the following questions:

  • Question 1: "To what extent do you agree or disagree with the proposed change to the additional annual subsistence charge for a materials facility operation?"
  • Question 2: "To what extent do you agree or disagree with the proposed change to our approach to billing for the additional subsistence charge for operators of materials facilities?"
  • Question 3: "To what extent do you agree or disagree with our view of the economic impact?"

Commenting on the proposal  Stuart Hayward-Higham, Chief Technical Development & Innovation Officer at SUEZ recycling and recovery UK, said: “This is another piece in the puzzle of the approaching suite of changes coming in against the backdrop of wider reforms aimed at smarter regulations for businesses and increased recycling. In preparation for this we’ve been working to understand and apply the new requirements to a significantly increased number of sites, and increase frequency of testing for different material streams. We welcome regulation that should deliver a level playing field between all operators of such facilities and across the sector as a whole.

“One of the key elements that is not fully clear yet is how these increased costs pass back to waste producers. The packaging EPR proposals for Local Authorities include provision for testing, but the MRF regulations commence before the pEPR funding and the detail of how and what is funded is not yet available. We will need to recover increased testing costs, as not only is the frequency of testing nearly doubling but the number of sites and material streams is also increasing significantly. An increase in the cost of regulation, as proposed in this consultation, will be an increased cost to the sector and waste producers. Further, the tight timescale between these regulations coming into force and the compliance date will prove challenging.”

The consultation period, which opened on 10 April runs until midnight on Wednesday, 5 June 2024. The EA encourages stakeholders to review the consultation document and supporting materials, offering their insights and feedback, which will be considered before finalising the proposals for government approval.