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WLGA calls for greater clarity on recycling collections
The Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) has called for greater clarity on how recycling services in Wales are organised and funded in the future.
The calls come during an ongoing and protracted Judicial Review between Defra, the Welsh Government and members of the Campaign for Real Recycling (CRR). The Judicial Review, which was first announced in 2010 after the CRR said that the UK and Welsh government’s permission of co-mingled collection systems (collecting dry recyclables in one container) could “permanently undermine the environmental and financial benefits of recycling” and argued that the government’s interpretation of the rWFD was “contrary to both the wording and spirit of the rWFD and therefore not a transposition of it”.
Since then, Defra and the Welsh Government have released several amendments to the Waste Regulations, in order to better align with the rWFD and a spokesperson from Defra told Resource in July that their new regulations laid in parliament “specifically say that separate collection of dry recyclables by 2015 is going to be the basic requirement, but maintain what the EC directive says, that co-mingled collections are acceptable as long as separate collections are not technically, environmentally and economically practicable (TEEP) and as long as the right quality of recyclates are achieved.
“The changes to Waste Regulations closely align with the wording of the Waste Framework Directive, while maintaining the flexibility local authorities need to adopt the collection service that delivers the best outcome for them and their residents.
“We believe that this amendment meets the requirements of the directive and is robust to further legal challenge. We hope this will allow us to draw a line under the current legal process, and work more constructively with all parts of the recycling supply chain to deliver more and better quality recycling.”
Councils are now concerned that they will not have enough time to change the way hundreds of thousands of householders in England and Wales recycle, as the European Directive outlines that by 1 January 2015, all Member States should be collecting plastic, metal, paper and glass recycling separately, rather than together.
A WLGA spokesperson called for clarity on which collection Welsh councils are meant to be pursuing: “The confusion over the future viability of co-mingled collection schemes has the potential to have far reaching consequences for both councils and their local communities, as around half of Welsh councils currently operate some form of co-mingled collection service.
“Local government in Wales fully supports the broad aims of the Welsh Government’s waste strategy, Towards Zero Waste, but waste is a complex issue and requires a huge amount of planning and investment not only in machinery and equipment, but also in awareness programmes that help residents to understand and participate in their local schemes. If we are to maintain local support and limit disruption to our residents in the future, we have a duty to work together to solve the collections issue as a matter of some urgency… To maintain the upward trend that earlier this year saw Wales achieve the highest ever recycling rate registered in the UK, local councils need reassurance over long term Welsh government funding and support.
“It is hoped that a prescriptive approach to future funding can be avoided. With local councils facing financial penalties for any failure to meet recycling targets in Wales, they must be free to shape their support for national recycling targets by developing locally determined collection services that reflect the specific needs of the local council and the communities they serve”, added the spokesperson.
A statement from Andy Moore, Director for UK Recyclate and Co-ordinator for the Campaign for Real Recycling, however, suggest the CRR has found the Welsh government and Defra’s current interpretation of the rWFD ‘not adequate’, and still believes the matter should be settled in court.
Commenting on behalf of the claimants, Moore said: "On 13 July, the claimants seeking judicial review of the Waste Regulations (England & Wales) 2011 instructed their solicitors to write to the government to inform them that, in the claimants’ view, the proposed amendment is still not an adequate transposition of the revised Waste Framework Directive…The claimants remain keen to engage with Defra and the Welsh Government in discussion as to how to interpret the revised Waste Framework Directive. However, at this stage the claimants expect there is a need for the issue to be formally resolved through the court process."
Moore acknowledged however, that local authorities needed a definitive answer on dry recyclable collections sooner, rather than later. “It is vital for local authorities and other key resource industry stakeholders that this is resolved decisively at the earliest opportunity.”
A source close to the CRR says it currently seems likely that the case surrounding the Judicial Review remains unresolved. He added that lawyers acting on behalf of the Judicial Review claimants believe the revised Regulations fall short, as they only require separate collection when it is 'necessary to facilitate or improve recovery' and 'technically, economically and environmentally practicable'. This, the source says, goes against the European Directive, which requires separate collection unless there are 'technically, economically and environmentally practicable' conditions.
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