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A Code of Practice for materials recycling facilities has been launched and formally laid before parliament.


The new Code of Practice will call for all materials recycling facilities (MRFs) over a certain size to measure the quality of their inputs and outputs. The test results will then be made available to businesses buying the recycling material as well as to local councils and others who supply material to the MRFs.

The code which would apply in both England and Wales does however stop short of setting any minimum quality standards.

The mandatory code is based on an initiative developed by the Environmental Services Association (ESA), the trade association for the waste management sector in the UK.

Government anticipates that the measures will cost businesses approximately £13 million to implement, a net saving of £31 million will however be generated through higher material revenue and reduced landfill costs, alongside avoided greenhouse gas emissions.

At an official launch event, Lord de Mauley said he believed there was “a strong businesses and environmental case for driving up quality.”

He continued:

“It is in all our interests to obtain the maximum economic value from our recyclates, whatever the material. The right levels of quality unlock and deliver value to the whole supply chain. Get the quality right, and this consultation will help do that, I hope, and manufacturers that use recyclates will want access to greater quantities.”

The minister also commented that improving the quality of recyclables will help on the export market, particularly with regard to China where plastics expects were “potentially under threat from China’s tightening import regulations.”

Turning to the details of the MRF code, he praised the ESA and its members for their early input in developing it and also WRAP for its support. The code, said Lord de Mauley, would send a “clear signal that government is taking quality seriously.”

Many waste management companies are supportive of the mandatory approach, with the focus being on high quality recycling.

The MRF code would be delivered through changes to the Environmental Permitting Regulations (England and Wales) which would come into force on April 6 2014 and consultation opened today on the proposals with responses due in by April 26.

All permitted MRFs processing more than 1,000 tonnes of dry recyclate per annum will be required to routinely measure the quality of the input, output and residual waste streams.

This information on quality will be made available to the MRF customers including local authorities and reprocessors on a quarterly basis via the Environment Agency.

The regulations also require an annual independent audit to be undertaken “to provide confidence to stakeholders that the sampling and testing is being undertaken in an acceptable and comparable manner by all MRFs (to provide a level playing field) and that the results produced can be relied upon.”

The measures Defra is planning to implement over the next few years to drive high quality recycling is set out in the Quality Action Plan.

Dry recyclables such as paper, glass, metals and plastics are the primary focus; Defra however noted that many of the principles also apply to food and garden waste.

Alongside the MRF Code of Practice, the measures outlined in the plan include:

  • “Issuing statutory guidance to support waste collectors’ implementation of the separate collection requirement under the revised Waste Framework Directive;
  • Delivering more accurate recycling data by amending guidance for councils to clarify what they should ask MRF operators to gain robust information on reject rates;
  • Supporting the adoption of the End Destinations of Recycling Charter among local authorities;
  • Developing a voluntary system for grading the quality of recyclates for each of the material streams – paper, plastics, metals and glass; and,
  • Consulting on amendments to the packaging waste recovery note (PRN) and packaging waste export recovery note (PRN) scheme in a bid to create a level playing field by applying the same quality criteria (which has yet to be determined) to both.”

Defra will also be undertaking numerous actions to help improve the quality of material which is exported.

The success of the action plan will be measured according to the proportion of outputs meeting reprocessor quality specifications, the number of MRFs implementing quality management systems and the amount of material achieving end of waste status.


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