Wales launches TEEP guidance consultation

The Welsh Government has today (28 April) launched a consultation on new recycling guidance that aims to help councils and businesses understand what recycling services they are legally obligated to provide under waste law.

The draft statutory guidance has been launched by the Welsh Minister for Natural Resources and Food, Alun Davies, to ‘support organisations and businesses affected by new EU legal requirements for the separate collection of four waste materials – paper, metal, plastic and glass’. 

According to the UK’s transposition of the EU’s revised Waste Framework Directive (the Waste Regulations (Amendment) 2012), by 2015, every waste collection authority must have in place separate collections for waste paper, metal, plastic and glass when they are necessary to ‘facilitate or improve recovery’ and are ‘technically, environmentally and economically practicable’ (TEEP). 

However, the UK government has not released details of what is considered TEEP, and the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) has said it will not be publishing any guidance on the matter (although the government-funded Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) recently launched a non-statutory ‘route map’ for local authorities to help assess compliance with the regulations).

Despite the UK government’s reticence in issuing guidance on when separate collections are legally necessary, the Welsh Government said it would launch draft guidance on separate recycling collections to ‘offer clarity on the legal requirements for separate collections for local authorities and waste collection providers operating in Wales’.

Making high-quality recycling ‘as simple as possible’

Speaking today, Davies said: “I want it to be as simple as possible for everyone in Wales to recycle the four materials to a high quality, so we can continue to improve our recycling rates and continue to lead the way with the highest recycling rates in the UK. 

“Increasing the quantity and the quality of materials available for recycling will ensure that Welsh councils and businesses can get a better price for what they collect. It will help to grow Wales’s market for recycled materials, which will pay more for quality resources, which can only benefit Welsh companies. This is why our overarching strategy, Towards Zero Waste, lays out a policy of separate collection for recyclable waste. 

”It’s vital that Welsh councils and businesses are clear on their responsibilitiesso that they can plan effectively for next year.”   

Mal Williams, Executive Director of Zero Waste Wales, said: "The guidance is entirely consistent with the Wales Waste Strategy, reiterating as it does the primacy of high-quality materials and the need for separate collection, defining separate collections as the default approach. It will now be difficult for any local authority to retain or switch to co-mingling – the guidance provides yet more evidence that will enable future legal challenges to transgressors.

"The key message is that separate collections are required and that derogations to co-mingle are permissible only under exceptional circumstances.

"Coming on top of last week’s ‘WRAP & Partners’ [route map] on separate collections and the MRF Code of Practice guidance, the Welsh Government’s guidance re-defines the debate.

"Co-mingling will now become an approach available only to a few very exceptional cases."

Guidance details

The ‘Consultation on draft Statutory Guidance on Separate Collection of Waste Paper, Metal, Plastic and Glass’ sets out the method that the Welsh Government believes will ‘enable local authorities, private waste management companies and social enterprises that collect, transfer or receive waste paper, metal, plastic and glass to comply with their duties under the Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2011’.

The separate collection obligations will be enforced by Natural Resources Wales, ‘through compliance, stop and restoration notices… and ultimately by way of criminal proceedings for breach of such notices’.

According to the document, it is ‘important that all collection systems remain as simple and straight forward as possible whilst being compliant with the law’.

Adding that the regulations ‘set a high bar’, the Welsh Government details thatthe requirement for separate collection does not mean that a separate bin is needed for each material. The guidance highlights that ‘separate collection can be done, for example, through a mixture of household/business sort and kerbside sort as well as from bring sites and civic amenity sites’.

For example, the Welsh Government states that two or more of the waste streams may be collected using a co-mingled system if the system achieves ‘high-quality recycling’. The benchmark for this should be that ‘the recyclate is similar in both quality and quantity to that achieved with good separate collection and is therefore able or capable to be used by reprocessors for turning back into a product of similar quality to what it was originally’ (i.e. glass should be remelt quality and not downgraded to aggregate).

The Welsh Government adds that each waste stream should be assessed in turn, and that in some cases, a ‘hybrid’ approach could be considered appropriate. For example, this may entail collecting some streams, such as glass, separately, while co-mingling others such as plastics and metals ‘and then separating them to high-quality standards in a subsequent treatment process’. Glass has been singled out as ‘co-mingling glass will not usually lead to high-quality recycling of all of the glass component. In addition it often leads to contamination of other streams.’

The guidance warns however that ‘different forms of plastic may deserve particular attention’, including considering how to achieve high quality for each type of plastic.

Understanding ‘practicability’

The guidance continues: ‘Where separate collection is considered necessary… the assessment of “practicability” then has to be made robustly. Relevant establishments or undertakings should consider not just whether separate collection is practicable by 2015, but also when it may become practicable, for which streams it would be practicable, and in which neighbourhoods or locations it would be practicable. The requirements do not require an all or nothing approach.’

Like the WRAP route map, the Welsh guidance warns that the ‘practicable’ nature of the TEEP requirement ‘does not allow for householder or business preferences about collection methods’.

Instead, practicability could be assessed by considering:

  • differences in capital and running costs between separate collection and co-mingled collection methods (however, this should not be ‘distorted by contractual or other obligations that the undertaking has entered into since the introduction of the 2011 Waste Regulations’);
  • congested streets, flats and houses of multiple occupation, and whether it is practicable to undertake a full kerbside sort, et cetera;
  • ‘very dispersed communities’, which may make collections impractical;
  • the technical capability of recycling certain material streams, like plastic pots, tubs, trays and film – which currently have a limited end-market in the UK.

Keeping a record of decisions

Although not a legal requirement, the draft guidance suggests that bodies ‘audit’ their decision-making processes, ‘identifying the evidence used and the timetable for review’.

It suggests that a suitable evidence base could include:

  • council papers about relevant decisions;
  • the business case for an in-house investment or  the specification for any tendered collection service;
  • assessment of the current and historical collection method;
  • information about materials recovery facility performance (such as sampling data provided by the MRF Regulations);
  • information about relevant technological changes;
  • information about economic assessments of options; and
  • information on environmental impact of options.

The guidance goes on to highlight that decisions should be revisited from ‘time to time’ as ‘there is a natural life-cycle to investment decisions in waste services and infrastructure… [and] over time, changes in technology will also affect both necessity and practicability’.

The consultation asks for stakeholders to detail whether the statutory guidance ‘sets out clearly how the Welsh Government considers establishments and undertakings that collect, transport or receive waste paper, metal, plastic and glass should comply with the legal requirements’ of the Waste Regulations and if there is anything else that needs to be ‘specifically addressed’ with regards to this question.

The deadline for submissions is 21 July 2014.

Final statutory guidance will be made available once all consultation responses have been considered. 

Read the Consultation on draft Statutory Guidance on Separate Collection of Waste Paper, Metal, Plastic and Glass’.