Defra has today (12 Feb) published the Government’s final version of its regulations regarding Material Recycling Facilities (MRFs), unveiling that mandatory quality requirements for all MRFs handling over 1000 tonnes of dry recyclate per annum will be introduced from October 2014.
The MRF regulations are aimed at stimulating the market conditions necessary to improve the quality of the material produced by MRFs so that it can be more readily recycled.
The final regulations include the requirements by MRFs to monitor quality, and retains the 1000 tonnes per annum requirement. Defra said it will continue to keep this figure “under review” to allay concerns that this could create a “potential loophole”.
“We would still encourage MRFs below the 1000t threshold to undertake sampling as best practice and in line with sampling and testing guidance being produced by WRAP,” Defra said.
A minimum quality standard for the material produced at MRFs has not been set. Defra says it wants standards to be determined by the market, saying it wanted to “strike the right balance between rigour and avoidance of unnecessary burdens on business.”
Ray Georgeson, Resource Association – “Throughout the development of these Regulations we have maintained the view that more intense levels of sampling at around fourfold that proposed originally by Defra in their consultation are still needed…”
Under the new regulations, MRF operators are required to take samples of material from suppliers to measure the composition.
Samples must also be taken for every 160 tonnes of mixed metal, glass, paper and plastic before October 2016. After this date the figure drops to 125 tonnes.
Operators must also take samples of material leaving the facility, identifying the target and non target material contained within the sample. These samples must be taken for every 50 tonnes of glass; 80 tonnes of paper; 20 tonnes of metal, and 20 tonnes of plastic material produced.
Defra said that it has decided to remove the requirement to sample residual waste on health and safety grounds.
The industry has welcomed the regulations but concerns have been sparked over how they will be enforced.
Jonathan Short, deputy chairman and founder of ECO Plastics said that regulations are “only as valuable as the inspection process used to enforce them”, and the sampling quantities and frequency of testing envisioned is a “long way below what is needed to come close to robustly measuring the quality of inputs and outputs.”
He said: “There is a very real concern that MRFs that do not wish to comply will be able to flout the rules because of the extent to which the process has been watered down.”
On the issue of enforcement Defra stated that it is working with the Environment Agency and Natural Resources Wales to “improve the robustness of their enforcement of the export controls.”
Jonathan Short, ECO Plastics: “There is a very real concern that MRFs that do not wish to comply will be able to flout the rules because of the extent to which the process has been watered down”
ESA’s Director General, Barry Dennis said of the news: “We are pleased that the Regulations build on ESA’s previous work on a MRF Code of Practice to set high standards for sampling across the industry, are mandatory and will be enforced by the Environment Agency.
“However, this is not the end of the process… MRF Regulations are part of a broader ambition to promote high quality recycling along the entire supply chain.”
Chris Dow, CEO of Closed Loop Recycling said: “The UK recycling industry and the wider UK economy has so much to gain from a regulatory system designed to improve the quality of material that feeds into reprocessors such as ourselves…
“Today’s announcement is a step in the right direction, although we’d still like to see it go further in helping us and our industry partners develop a sustainable business model where we can ensure that the UK is the recycling powerhouse of Europe.”
Chief Executive Ray Georgeson said: “Throughout the development of these Regulations we have maintained the view that more intense levels of sampling at around fourfold that proposed originally by Defra in their consultation are still needed…
“Our instincts are that the proposed regulations still fall a long way short of delivering that overall objective. They may prove to be so weak and easy to circumvent by rogue operators that they will not necessarily deliver confidence to reprocessors and the wider market that the data is worthwhile and useful.
“The role of the Environment Agency is critical in this… Robust implementation of weak regulations is not ideal, but it will go some way to bringing just a little confidence to the current approach of Government.”
CIWM chief executive Steve Lee said: “We welcome the new MRF regulations as a good starting point in the drive for higher quality… It is essential that the regulations are properly audited and enforced and during consultation, CIWM called for unannounced as well as pre-arranged inspections. We are, therefore, pleased to see that the regulators have agreed to this in principle, subject to a charging consultation to be issued later this year.
“…However, the regulations fall short of providing the robust quality blueprint that some in the industry had hoped for.
“Quality underpins the value of recycling and resource management to all parties in our industry… CIWM is disappointed, therefore, that the Government has missed an opportunity to tie the new regulations more closely into the requirement for ‘high quality recycling’ in the Waste Framework Directive…
“These regulations have been hard fought for but they should not be the end of the process. Greater transparency and confidence are important to drive out illegal operators and poor performers and greater quality is essential to ensure that valuable recovered materials can be used to benefit the UK economy. All parties in the industry must continue to work together to achieve these goals.”
For the full consultation response CLICK HERE
For the Regulations CLICK HERE