WRAP releases TEEP ‘route map’

The Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) has released its ‘Waste Regulations Route Map’ to help local authorities (LAs) understand what recycling services they are legally obligated to provide under waste law.

Developed by a working group comprising members of the local authority waste networks, coordinated through the London Waste and Recycling Board (LWARB), the Waste Network Chairs (WNC), and WRAP, the route map aims to ‘reduce the extent to which individual authorities need to invest in advice, and to help bring consistency and clarity to the way that the Waste England and Wales Regulations 2011 (as amended)… are interpreted’.

The working group appointed environmental consultancy Eunomia Research and Consulting Ltd to assist with its preparation. 

Co-mingled versus separate sort

The document was reportedly commissioned after the working group ‘identified a need for information to be available to local authorities on the regulations relevant to separate collections of recyclable waste’, as the Waste Regulations (which transpose the European Commission's revised Waste Framework Directive into English and Welsh law) state that by 1 January 2015, councils will need to provide separate collections of dry recyclable materials when they are necessary to ‘facilitate or improve recovery’ and are ‘technically, environmentally and economically practicable’ (TEEP). 

However, details of what is considered TEEP have not been released by government, and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has said it will not be publishing any guidance on the matter.

Whether local authorities could be liable for prosecution for continuing co-mingled collections after 2015 has also been a cause for concern for many councils currently operating this system, despite a Judicial Review into the matter in 2013 finding that co-mingled collections will continue to be permissible.

As such, the working group has released its route map to provide local authorities with a ‘decision support tool’ to assess compliance with the regulations. It is hoped that by using this document, LAs will avoid ‘reinventing the wheel’ and spending ‘time and effort developing their own approach’.

Route map details

The route map comprises three main sections:

  • a ‘step-by-step process for councils to follow as they assess whether their waste collection services are compliant with the requirement to separately collect certain materials’;
  • frequently asked questions (FAQs) about what the law requires; and
  • ‘useful resources’ to help councils in their assessments.

It is addressed primarily to English waste collection authorities (WCAs) – but is also relevant to Welsh authorities – and to waste disposal authorities (WDAs) – and is primarily concerned with household waste collections.

The working group is careful to note that the route map is not ‘guidance’ (and therefore is not legal advice) and as such ‘will not tell a council which materials (if any) it must collect separately’.

LAs wishing to co-mingle glass will need ‘very strong evidence’

However, the document highlights that it is ‘commonly stated’ that plastic and cans are a good example of materials that can be easily co-mingled and sorted for recycling, whereas ‘particular issues have been raised regarding the inclusion of glass waste within a dry recycling mix’.

It also warns LAs that if they wish to co-mingle glass, they will need ‘very strong evidence’ to show they are ‘able to deliver high-quality recycling if [they] wish to argue that separate collection of glass is not necessary’.

The document reads: ‘The key issue local authorities are likely to be concerned with is whether they must collect the four materials separately from one another, or whether they can collect some or all of them co-mingled.

‘Whilst the Regulations express a clear presumption in favour of material being collected in separate streams, there are circumstances under which it may be permissible to collect materials co-mingled.

‘Decisions about whether co-mingled collections are justifiable need to be taken locally, based on the particular circumstances in each area.’

The group suggests that when assessing the ‘overall impacts’ of a waste service, LAs should take into account:

  • the general environmental protection principles of precaution and sustainability;
  • technical feasibility and economic viability;
  • protection of resources; and
  • the overall environmental, human health, economic and social impacts.

Further, the working group suggests LAs take seven steps in assessing their waste system:

  1. review what materials are collected and how;
  2. appraise how collected materials are managed (i.e. tonnages of materials consigned to each recycling or recovery route);
  3. apply the waste hierarchy to materials to assess options (prevent; reuse; recycle; recover);
  4. apply the necessity and TEEP tests to paper, plastic, glass, and metal collections;
  5. propose and agree a future approach for all materials;
  6. retain evidence to support the rationale for the LAs decision; and
  7. set up regular reviews to ensure continuing compliance.

Necessity and practicability testing

It adds that if any LAs are considering continuing co-mingled collections of any of the four key materials, they will ‘need to compare this approach with the default option of separate collection’.

To help with this, the route map outlines a ‘necessity test’ that LAs can use to test ‘whether separate collection is necessary to “facilitate or improve” recovery’, and a ‘practicability’ test to identify whether separate collections are TEEP.

In relation to the latter, the working group states that LAs may also need to ‘consider whether separate collection might be practicable for the majority [of householders], even if alternative arrangements would need to be made for some’, and adds that ‘the preference of householders or businesses for different collection systems is not a factor that fits readily within the considerations that the [p]racticability [t]est takes into account’.

Further, it suggests that when looking at the cost of implementing/continuing separate collections, ‘it is only if the costs of separate collection would be excessive or disproportionate that you can conclude that it is not economically practicable’.

‘A critical tool for local authorities in a dense urban environment’

Speaking of the route map, Lyn Carpenter, chair of the working group (and Executive Director for the Environment, Leisure and Residents Services Department at the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham and Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea), said: “The route map gives local authorities the tools to make their own decision regarding their obligations under the Waste Regulations from January 2015.

“It provides an approach that can be used by any local authority and should help individual authorities avoid ‘reinventing the wheel’ in having to develop their own approach.”

James Fulford, Director of Eunomia, added: “The implications for the UK waste and resources sector of the Waste Framework Directive and the related UK Regulations are significant and pressing yet remain poorly understood.

“With statutory guidance no longer expected, various local authority representative organisations stepped into the breach to commission Eunomia to prepare the Waste Regulations Route Map. We’re proud to have been involved and hope that the work will help local authorities better understand both existing and new obligations.”

Linda Crichton, Head of Resource Management at WRAP, commended the WNC and LWARB for “taking the initiative forward”, and added that WRAP hopes the document will be a “great source of information for local authorities.”

Wayne Hubbard, Chief Operating Officer of LWARB, said he was “delighted” to have been involved with the route map, adding that it was a “critical tool for local authorities, particularly those in a dense urban environment such as London, where space for recycling can be an issue”.

'Unusual for support of this kind not to come from government'

The route map has been welcomed by members of the waste and resources industry, with Steve Lee, Chief Executive of the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM), saying: "Waste collection and recycling is going through a period of change and uncertainty and it is unusual for support of this kind not to come from government, given the strategic importance of the issues involved and the potentially far reaching consequences. In moving forward, it is important that we work as collaboratively as possible, ensure that the good work of councils and the industry in the last decade is not undermined, and maintain the public’s confidence in recycling.

“CIWM will now be consulting with its members on the Route Map to explore the implications of the regulations more fully in the light of practical application and experience.”

A resource pack has also been released alongside the route map.

Read the ‘Waste Regulations Route Map’.