Following the completion of the Government’s consultation on the introduction of a Code of Practice for Materials Recycling Facilities (MRFs), Lincolnshire-based recycler, ECO Plastics, has called for the urgent introduction of mandatory requirements.
Launched in February, the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ consultation solicited views on whether a code specifying minimum output standards should be compulsory for all MRFs, coupled with transparent and auditable sampling regimes, or whether they should be able to comply on a voluntary basis.
ECO Plastics says, in common with much of the rest of the industry, it is concerned that allowing MRFs to choose whether or not they meet agreed standards, will negate the entire point of the scheme and continue the current deterioration in quality of the UK’s waste stream.
Jonathan Short of ECO Plastics commented: “We have submitted our response to the Government’s consultation and in that we have made clear in no uncertain terms our view that the Code of Practice is doomed to failure if firms can simply opt out.
“The fact that some reprocessing markets can still accept a high degree of contamination means that those companies which choose to comply with voluntary standards will be undercut by their competitors. If they are forced to decide between maintaining quality and going out of business, you can predict which option they will choose. The scheme will collapse unless all MRFs have to meet minimum standards. ”
In parallel with compulsory targets, ECO Plastics says it has also highlighted the need for the introduction of comprehensive testing. Short explained: “Of course introducing standards on their own is highly unlikely to have the desired result, we also need to ensure that those standards are being met.
“The best way to do that is through the implementation of a robust testing regime. MRFs must be required to carry out frequent analysis of their materials and they must be subject to regular, unscheduled tests of their facilities by the Environment Agency. Full transparency is essential, with the information summarised and made publicly available. The industry has nothing to hide and everything to gain by working to Best Practice – we will produce material which is attractive to any market in the world, at premium value.”
Finally, Short also emphasised the need for a quick resolution to current situation. “We do need urgent action,” he said. “The Code of Practice was first proposed in the 2011 Waste Review and a consultation was originally due in the autumn of 2012. Even since then there has been a visible decrease in the quality of the waste that we receive from some MRFs. We can’t afford any further delays - the Government must act quickly to implement a compulsory code in order to safeguard the UK industry.
“If we are to create a sustainable, 360 degree domestic industry that covers the entire waste value chain, it is imperative that we address the issue of declining quality. Establishing a consistent stream of quality recyclate from MRFs is the best way to tackle the problem at source. The Government must not throw away this golden opportunity to set the foundation for our industry’s future success,” Short concluded.