Legislation update – Spring 2016

25th May 2016 Posted by

Each quarter, the Source legislation update compiles a round-up of emerging policy and legislation, from the UK and EU, which could have an impact on recycling and waste management practices.

During the first quarter of 2016, the European Commission published a major study assessing both the legislation and practice of separate collection systems for waste across the 28 EU member states.

The report concludes that strict separate collections (one recyclable in one bin) ‘usually leads to higher recycling rates’. In addition, mandatory separate collection systems for certain types of waste, such as waste paper, packaging waste, or mandatory separate collection of bio-waste, should be introduced.

The report also expressed the view that, while commingled collection ‘can work’, the collected material can only be sorted to produce clean fractions if there is very little contamination. Reducing contamination and so-called ‘sorting mistakes’ in the commingled bin is the largest challenge.

The report recommends the introduction of clear definitions of ‘separate collection’ in national legislation, as well as high quality recycling and treatment standards.

Kerbside commingled collection is the main collection method in England and, according to the Environment Agency, is likely to remain so regardless of the report.

Defra has issued a new thirteen page version of their Waste Duty of Care Code of Practice, replacing the previous 60 page document. The new version takes into account legislation and policy changes since the first Code of Practice was launched in 1996.

Carrier bags

In December 2015, Defra published a review of standards for biodegradable plastic carrier bags. The review relates to the carrier bag charge legislation that came into effect in October 2015. The review concluded that further work was needed to establish quality standards for biodegradable plastics if they were to be exempt from the charge.

This further delays the proposed exemption of biodegradable bags from the 5p levy, and whether either oxo-biodegradable (materials that bio-degrade in open air) or plant-based biodegradable materials are likely to be eligible.

By the end of May this year, retailers will have to report the number of bags that have been supplied to customers and what they have done with the proceeds, after reasonable costs have been deducted. The government will then review what impact the charge has had so far and also report on how an exemption for biodegradable bags might be implemented.

Mixed paper

Defra is considering changes to the mechanism used for issuing Packaging Waste Recovery Notes (PRNs) for mixed paper. The means by which obligated businesses must demonstrate the proportion of their packaging put on the market that has been recycled or recovered.

Mixed papers, primarily sourced from the household waste stream by local authorities through recycling and waste contractors, have always contained an element of packaging ranging from cereal boxes to cardboard. The current agreement is that 12.5 per cent of mixed papers could count as packaging material, and therefore eligible for PRNs.

Under plans discussed between Defra and the industry, this could rise to 23 per cent following trials at a materials recycling facility. If approved, the new figure would be a boost to UK mills as they could issue more PRNs.

Following consultation held in late 2015, the Department of Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) has selected the Joint Trade Association (JTA) WEEE compliance fee mechanism for the 2015 compliance period.

WEEE waste (waste electrical and electronic equipment)

Changes to the WEEE Regulations in 2013 effectively removed a market that previously existed for the trading of WEEE ‘evidence’ between compliance schemes. Schemes that are unable to collect enough evidence to meet their members’ obligations can now opt to use the compliance fee to meet the target.

The level at which the fee is set is determined using a methodology. Set after the end of the compliance period for which schemes have until 31 January to secure evidence.

The 2015 proposal includes using the same methodology as in 2014, involving a sliding scale calculation of costs to set the fee. But with the addition of a requirement that schemes using the fee for more than 10 per cent of their target will be required to contribute to the administrative costs of running the system.

Vehicle waste

Under the End of Life Vehicles Directive, when cars and vans up to 3.5 tonnes in weight reach the end of their lives, they must be disposed of in an environmentally responsible way. However, while manufacturers provide this service free of charge, some motorists can face difficulties if the brand is no longer trading and has no parent company.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has taken on responsibility for these vehicles by partnering with recycling company Autogreen to ensure that all unclaimed cars and vans can be disposed of and recycled responsibly, with no cost to the consumer. The new take-back system will help ensure that the estimated 700,000 orphan vehicles, still on British roads, have a route to responsible disposal.

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