Recycling campaigners are considering an appeal after a judge has dismissed their judicial review claim seeking restrictions on commingled recycling collections.
The claimants, members of the Campaign for Real Recycling (CRR), had argued Defra and the Welsh government had not properly transposed the European revised Waste Directive Framework in the Waste Regulations (England and Wales), in particular, rules on when commingled collections should be allowed.
They argued commingled collections do not produce high quality recyclate.
The judge, Mr Justice Hickinbottom, found the governments had properly interpreted European law and that the obligation to set up separate collection of paper, metal, plastic and glass from 2015 applies only where it is necessary to ensure waste undergoes recovery operations and to facilitate and improve recovery and is also technically, environmentally and economically practicable.
But CRR chair, Mal Williams, said the group maintained that the current regulations fail to sufficiently facilitate or specify separation of materials. He said he was extremely disappointed by the verdict which was a “judgement against material quality and progress towards a recycling society”.
Williams added: “The claimants are currently in discussion with their legal advisors and are considering an appeal against the judgement”.
ESA’s director general, Barry Dennis told LGC’s sister publication Materials Recycling World: “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.”
Responding on Twitter, CEO of the Chartered Institition of Wastes Management, Steve Lee, said the ruling meant commingled collections do satisfy the requirements of the rWFD.
Defra’s director of waste, Colin Church said: “So separate collection remains default, except where not necessary or not technically, economically or environmentally practicable.”
A Defra spokesperson: “This ruling shows our interpretation of the revised Waste Framework Directive is right. It recognises that it’s for local authorities to decide, within the law, whether separate recycling collections are necessary and practicable. We will continue to work with local authorities, the waste industry and other partners to provide waste services that meet the needs of local communities and improve the quality of recycling,”
Cllr Mike Jones, chair of the LGA’s environment and housing board, said: “Today’s announcement is great news for councils and means we can continue to work with our residents to collect the bins in a way that reflects local circumstances. The LGA has fought long and hard and we are delighted that the matter has now been resolved.
“It’s time for the waste sector to draw a line under this and let councils get on with the job of providing residents with an efficient, environmentally responsible and value for money waste service.”
The legal action brought by CRR did force the UK and Welsh governments to revise the regulations last year to require separate collections only where technically, environmentally and economically practicable (TEEP) and necessary to meet the required standards of reprocessors.
But the CRR rejected that revision as an inadequate transposition of the EU law which demands: “measures to promote high quality recycling” and “separate collections of waste where technically, environmentally and economically practicable and appropriate to meet the necessary quality standards for the relevant recycling sectors.”
The judge also dismissed an application by the claimants to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union.
The claimants in the judicial review were:
- UK Recyclate;
- Smurfit Kappa;
- Palm Recycling;
- D S Smith Paper;
- Novelis UK;
- Plastics Sorting;
- Ardagh Glass.