Resource Use

EA releases separate collection briefing

The Environment Agency has today (27 June) issued a briefing note on ‘Separate Collection of Recyclables’, as part of its role in enforcing new waste collection regulations that will require separate collection of recyclables from January 2015.

According to the UK’s transposition of the EU’s revised Waste Framework Directive (WFD), the Waste Regulations, 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’s Waste Management Plan for England, to which local authorities should have regard, states that ‘in effect’ the Waste Regulations ‘require the separate collection of waste paper, metal, plastic and glass from 2015 onwards wherever separate collection is necessary to get high quality recycling, and practicable’.

Despite this, there has, until now, been little reference to what ‘high-quality recycling’ entails. The EA’s briefing note, however, references European Commission guidance that states: ‘High Quality means the standard that can be achieved by Separate Collection’.It also points local authorities towards recent guidance on contamination levels published by the Resource Association on behalf of reprocessors.

‘Risk-based regime for regulation’

In the briefing note, the EA says that, as the enforcement authority, it is working alongside Defra and WRAP to develop a ‘risk-based regime for regulation’.

Though the agency says it is ‘premature’ to reveal the details, discussions are reported to be ‘going well’, and those who will be affected by the new approach will be addressed ‘over the coming months’.

The EA claims that enforcement action will only be taken ‘where necessary’ and that it aims to keep it to ‘an absolute minimum’. The document reads: ‘It will be our aim that the regime will help collection authorities to meet their obligations, and for them to wish to do so willingly.’

The briefing note is slightly more strongly worded when it comes to the application of TEEP, noting: ‘“Practicability” is intended to be a high hurdle. “Impracticable” does not just mean difficult, inconvenient, more expensive or unpopular.’

With regard to differing local circumstances, though, the briefing notes: ‘It is clear that practicable solutions will vary according to the type, size and make-up etc of each Waste Collection Authority. Different solutions may also be practicable in different neighbourhoods. We will expect to see that the collection authority has thoroughly reviewed the issue based on evidence and can present a clear audit trail of their decisions.’

Elsewhere, the document says: ‘Local authorities should always consult their own lawyers as necessary.’

Co-mingled waste

The EA’s briefing note also specifies that local collection authorities must not continue to collect co-mingled waste: mixed dry recyclables ‘must be collected separately’ and they ‘must not be re-mixed’ at a later date.

However, the note continues to say that co-mingling will remain permissible after 2015 only ‘where it provides high quality recyclates or where separate collection is not practicable’.