Government Urged To Introduce Mandatory MRF Targets

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Following the completion of the Government’s consultation on the introduction of a Code of Practice for Materials Recycling Facilities (MRFs), UK recycler ECO Plastics has called for the urgent introduction of mandatory requirements.

Launched in February, the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ (Defra) consultation solicited views on whether a code specifying minimum output standards should be compulsory for all MRFs, coupled with transparent and auditable sampling regimes, or whether they should be able to comply on a voluntary basis.

Of course introducing standards on their own is highly unlikely to have the desired result, we also need to ensure that those standards are being met

Jonathan Short – “We have submitted our response to the Government’s consultation and in that we have made clear in no uncertain terms our view that the Code of Practice is doomed to failure if firms can simply opt out.”

ECO Plastics has expressed concerned that allowing MRFs to choose whether or not they meet agreed standards, will negate the entire point of the scheme and continue the current deterioration in quality of the UK’s waste stream.

Commenting, Jonathan Short of ECO Plastics said: “We have submitted our response to the Government’s consultation and in that we have made clear in no uncertain terms our view that the Code of Practice is doomed to failure if firms can simply opt out.

“The fact that some reprocessing markets can still accept a high degree of contamination means that those companies which choose to comply with voluntary standards will be undercut by their competitors. If they are forced to decide between maintaining quality and going out of business, you can predict which option they will choose. The scheme will collapse unless all MRFs have to meet minimum standards. ”

In parallel with compulsory targets, ECO Plastics has also highlighted the need for the introduction of comprehensive testing. Short explained, “Of course introducing standards on their own is highly unlikely to have the desired result, we also need to ensure that those standards are being met.

Resource Association chief executive, Ray Georgeson, said: “The Resource Association welcomes and supports the increased attention being paid to recyclate quality and is glad that this is now recognised as an essential element of the resource efficient economy. We welcome the draft MRF Regulations and commend the desire to make this mandatory, and we also wish to note the constructive approach taken by officials and Ministers during the consultation period to further engagement with key stakeholders to try and find common ground and a settled basis for regulation.”

“We believe there are still areas where the draft Regulations need strengthening in order to deliver the robust and credible regulatory regime needed.

We highlight the following:

  • Greater intensity in the proposed sampling regime is needed, both in terms of sample size and frequency… The absence of guidance on sampling methodology needs to be addressed urgently by Defra and we remain available to assist with this in the next period.
  • Audit and enforcement arrangements need to be more robust. In particular, the Environment Agency must have a clear mandate for enforcement and this must include twice yearly unannounced permitting enforcement visits. Unannounced must mean just that – unannounced, and must include the ability to take physical samples and have the right to interview operatives as well as site management.
  • Full transparency of MRF data to aid market intelligence as indicated by Defra is supported by us, and we consider this essential if Defra’s desired aim of improved market intelligence to aid reprocessors in understanding the outputs of MRFs is to be achieved.

 

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