Judge to make decision on separate recycling collections

What is a separate collection? The answer to this seemingly simple question could mean some changes for local authorities and recycling service providers – and there’s not long to go before we find out.

A four-day judicial review hearing into the future of commingled (mixed) recycling collections in England and Wales is currently being held at Cardiff Administrative Court. The outcome, expected on 28th February, could remove uncertainty about the current situation regarding such waste, and is consequently of great interest to local authorities and waste management firms.

The European Waste Framework Directive states that Member States must “set up separate collections of waste where technically, environmentally and economically practicable and appropriate to meet the necessary quality standards for the relevant recycling sectors”.

At the heart of the debate is the definition of the term “separate collection”. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) had initially treated commingled collections, where recyclable materials are all put in one bin, as a form of separate waste collection. This was challenged by the Campaign for Real Recycling (CRR), so the Government responded by altering its regulations, making separate collections of recyclable waste necessary where “technically, environmentally and economically practicable”, or TEEP. However, Defra has yet to provide its definition of TEEP, which is vital to interpretation of the directive.

In light of the above, CRR has challenged Defra and the Welsh Government on their interpretation of what constitutes a “separate collection”. Its members – Ardagh Glass Ltd, DS Smith Paper Ltd, Novelis UK Ltd, Palm Recycling Ltd, Smurfitt Kappa Ltd and UK Recyclate Ltd – are in favour of separate collections for the benefit of the environment. The Chairman of CRR, Mal Williams, said:

“We maintain that separate collections, as required by the Waste Framework Directive, are the best way forward in both economic and environmental terms.”

If Mr Justice Hickinbottom, hearing the case, rules against the CRR, its members could lodge an appeal. The process could be delayed further if the case is referred to the European Courts of Justice.

Not everyone in the waste management sector is in favour of a change in the rules. Biffa, a large company, supports the current interpretation of the legislation, arguing that it would cost millions of pounds to implement changes and make the system more complex. Its Municipal Development Manager, Pete Dickson, said:

“Local authorities should be the ones to decide how their local recycling and refuse should be collected. They must be allowed to have the freedom to choose the collection system that best meets their local needs.”

As an award-winning provider of recycling services, Recycling Lives awaits the outcome of the judicial review with interest. Whatever is decided, Recycling Lives will seamlessly incorporate any changes and continue to assure customers of our dedication to finding the best solutions in waste management, underpinned by a commitment to environmental sustainability as set out in our Corporate Social Responsibility agenda.