LARAC responds to Defra collection consultation

LARAC has released its response to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) consultation on the standardisation of recycling collection services across England, which closed on 4 July.

The industry body has offered broad support for large parts of the consistency consultation, but has emphasised its opposition to the introduction of mandatory free garden waste collections.

A waste removal vehicle emptying a blue wheelie binMembers were ‘very strong’ in their rejection of this proposal, stating that charges for garden waste services would ‘still contribute strongly to a 65 per cent recycling rate’.

Plans to introduce a free, minimum garden waste collection service were outlined in the first consultation, with the proposal receiving mixed support in response.

The consultation sought views on the ‘costs and benefits of the proposal’, which would see a limited free collection service introduced, with local authorities retaining the provision to charge beyond this.

According to Defra, the introduction of free garden waste collections paid for by local authorities would save households £100 million in separate taxes.

Carole Taylor, LARAC Chair, said: “Through our surveys and workshops there was a very strong message from our members that nationwide free garden waste was a backwards step.

Our members told us that garden waste is not going in the residual bin and that they are achieving good returns through charges for systems. By allowing charges, it frees up central funding to support other aspects of the collection system.“Food waste collections are one area where that funding could be used, with local authorities supportive of fully funded food waste collections.”

Timeline ‘very challenging’

Through the consultation, Defra aimed to ‘reduce confusion in the materials that can be collected for recycling at kerbside’, detailing specific policy proposals for increasing consistency in recycling collected from households, businesses and other organisations.

Notably, the consultation outlined proposals to introduce separate food waste collections from households, including flats and other dwellings that to date have been excluded from the service.

LARAC has raised additional concerns about the deadline of 2025 for this proposal, pointing out that the mobilisation period would be ‘very challenging’, especially when so many councils would be going to the market at the same time, instead supporting a phased timetable, as was proposed in the first consistency consultation in 2019.

The industry body added that it was ‘keen to hear the details of how the Government intends to fund this new burden’.

‘Unrealistic’ expectations

The consultation additionally asked respondents to consider which materials should be collected as part of the dry recyclable waste streams and which should be exempt, with this consultation proposing the expansion of the range of materials collected.

Notable additions to the list included cartons, aluminium foils and tubes, and plastic films, materials not currently collected at kerbside by many councils.

LARAC reiterated previous concerns about the incorporation of plastic film into recycling collections by 2026/27, labelling the policy as ‘unrealistic’, given the lack of sorting facilities and end markets.

The Extended Producer Responsibility scheme, scheduled to be introduced in 2023/34, is set to cover the full net costs of collecting packaging materials, including the expanded range of materials.

Further concerns were voiced over the ‘potentially prescriptive nature of proposals on collection systems’. According to LARAC, quality materials are currently being provided by ‘all three types of collection system’, and the industry body supports systems ‘designed for local circumstances that deliver materials to available end markets’.

Members also emphasised their desire to choose how frequently residual collections are made, in order to drive efficiencies and increase recycling rates.

The full set of ‘Consistency in Household and Business Recycling in England’ proposals can be found on Defra’s website.

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