Waste Management & Recycling Solutions

The Aftermath of Comingled Waste Controversy and Judicial Review

The long awaited judgement regarding the transposition of the revised Waste Framework Directives (rWFD) in the legislation of the government of England and Wales came earlier this year on March 6th. The ruling is in favour of the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and Welsh government and approves the continuation of commingled waste collection by the local waste collection authorities. Despite the clear judgement, the debate about the use of the commingled waste collection versus separate waste collection continues among the interested authorities and waste processing companies.

The European Union Waste Framework Directive (WFD) was adopted by the EU in 2006 to provide a legal framework to the public for the proper collection, transportation, recovery and disposal of the rubbish. All the member states were required to take the necessary measures to ensure the best waste management and recycling practices as a priority in order to protect the environment and human beings.  These directives were amended later and the revised waste framework directives (rWFD) came into force in October 2012.

The transposition of the directives in the England and Welsh Government took place through the amendment of the Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2011. This regulation required the local waste collection authorities to collect the paper, plastic, metal and other dry waste separately from January 2015. A duty is imposed to ensure the compliance of the law. Presently, the dry waste is collected together at the source and later segregated into paper, glass and plastic etc. at the respective waste processing and recycling points. This method is called commingled waste collection (CWC).

The transposition requirements of the directives in the law were challenged for a judicial review by six member companies against DEFRA and the Welsh government. These waste processing companies are the members of the Campaign for Real Recycling (CRR) and includes UK Recyclate, DS Smith Paper, Ardagh Glass, Palm Recycling, Novelis UK and Smurfit Kappa. They argued that the regulations to transpose the revised waste framework directives were faulty and the CWCdoes not need to be ended and replaced by separate waste collection by 2015.

However, according to the regulations from DEFRA and the Welsh government, these duties apply to the household and commercial waste wherever it is technically, economically and environmentally feasible. The regulation needs to be complied with when it is essential for better quality of recycling.

As the Environmental Services Association (ESA) and the local government association (LGA) where the interested parties in the case, they came forward to provide the expert evidence in support of an optimum waste collection system.

DEFRA and the government of Wales was granted a six-month stay on the judicial review proceedings to consult and revise the regulations in order to reflect better on the rWFD. The amended Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2012 came into force in October 2012 with the changes in the regulation 13 of the Waste Regulation 2011.

The ‘Campaign for Real Recycling’ group of waste reprocessing companies continued with their application of judicial review against DEFRA and the Welsh government. They argued that the revisions still fail to address the issue and the provision of separate waste collection should be applicable uniformly throughout Europe. The application was filed stating that by handing over decision about the method i.e. either separate or commingled, to the local waste collection authorities is a failure to sustain the requirements of the revised waste framework directive (rWFD).

The ruling of the judicial review came earlier this year on March 6th in favor of the transposition of the directives by DEFRA and Government of Wales. The judgement was handed over by Mr. Justice Hickinbottom where he dismissed the application of the CRR claimants. He made it clear that under the European Union law, the CWC is permissible and the separate waste collection is applicable only when it is technically, environmentally and economically feasible. The method used should be decided after considering the best interest of people and the environment.

The judicial review judgement has made it very clear that it is the discretion of the local waste collection authority to decide whether the commingled or the separate collection is best suitable for the locality. Both the methods are equally lawful and can be used. The general public reaction towards the judgment is in affirmative.

The representatives of UK waste industry, Environmental Services Association (ESA) has appreciated the judgement of the review. According to the statement given by Barry Dennis, the director of ESA,

“The ESA has always believed that both the Directive and the revised DEFRA regulations recognise that decisions over local collection methods are complex and that local discretion over the format of recycling collections is needed to ensure that the Directive’s objectives are met. We are therefore pleased that the Judge, having examined the matter in great depth, has taken the same view.

ESA members can now get on with the challenge of working with their local authority customers to select the most appropriate collection system locally. This is vital if we are to continue to make significant increases in recycling rates, so that as much of our waste as possible is returned to productive use.”

From the convenience point of view, the segregation of the dry waste at source adds to the complexity of the process and is prone to bring discomfort and dissatisfaction among the general public. In fact, from an economic point of view, separation of the commingled waste at the waste processing points adds to the profit of the waste processing company. Moreover, the local authorities and waste processing companies have invested huge amount of money to set up an effective and efficient system of commingled waste collection. The changes in the method of waste collection would also require changes in these set ups too.

By and large, the separate waste collection could have proved more of a pain than an improvement.

Comments are closed.