Mixed recycling case dismissed by judge

Copied from Local Government Chronicle online
6 March, 2013 | By Neil Roberts

A judge has dismissed the claim brought by members of the Campaign for Real Recycling that sought restrictions on commingled collections, according to the Environmental Services Association.

The claimants 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 are allowed.

They argued commingled collections do not produce high quality recyclate while waste firms Biffa and Veolia released statements warned that a victory would force councils to switch to sorting recycling on the kerbside wasting taxpayers money and damaging recycling rates.

ESA said 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.

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.”

The legal action did force the governments to revise the regulations last year to require separate collections only where technically, environmentally and economically practicable 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 dismised an application by the claimants to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union.

More rubbish recycled than taken to landfill, claims Defra

This story contains two diametrically opposed views of how the boost in recycling rates has been achieved. The councils suggest that fortnightly collections help to encourage residents to think more carefully about how they dispose of their refuse. A pressure group believes it to be no more than necessity because of the loss of weekly collections.

Given that it takes a lot of time, effort and resource to change the habits of the public, the councils may have a point. However, I think the government is, not for the first time, missing an opportunity. If the government and in particular Eric Pickles, are so keen to see weekly collections continue, why don’t they encourage councils to fund these through increased recycling? The current arrangement of recycling credits paid from county councils to districts (in 2 tier areas) is just recirculating the same local government money, not providing any new funding.

Daily Telegraph 1 January 2013 – ENVIRONMENT
By Christopher Hope

HOUSEHOLDERS are recycling more waste than they throw away for the first time following the widespread introduction of fortnightly bin collections, figures released yesterday show.
Official figures published by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) show that councils in England recycled, composted or reused 10.7 million tons of the waste they collected, compared with 9.6 million tons that went to landfill.
Analysis shows that most of the 10 councils with the biggest increases in recycling rates have brought in fortnightly collections and food waste recycling in the past two years.
The most improved was Runny­mede council in Surrey, which increased recycling rates from 29 per cent in 2010-2011 to 47 per cent last year.
The council put its success down to widening the range of what could be recycled, including food waste. It also switched from weekly to fortnightly collections in January 2011.
Bury council in Greater Manchester increased recycling rates by almost 50 per cent by changing to fortnightly household rubbish rounds and bringing in food waste collections for 56,000 households which already had bins for recycling garden waste.
Vale of White Horse and West Oxfordshire district councils boosted recycling rates to above 60 per cent of total waste in the latest figures. Both authorities introduced a system of fortnightly rubbish and separate weekly food waste collections in the past two years.
The combination of fortnightly rubbish rounds and separate food waste collections also proved a success for Cheltenham council, which improved recycling rates by a third from under 35 per cent of waste to 46 per cent in a year.
Of the 10 councils with the largest increase in recycling, only the London borough of Newham, which had the second best increase, has weekly bin collections and no food waste pick-ups.
The council started from a low base, raising recycling levels from just under 15 per cent to almost 23 per cent over the past year.
Ministers have been fighting in vain to stop councils dropping weekly collections and moving to fortnightly collections to save money and increase recycling.
In November, councils caused outrage when they said they would be using a £250 million cash fund which was meant to finance weekly waste collections to pay to empty household slop buckets.
The debate continued yesterday after the figures were released, with a local government minister, Brandon Lewis, insisting that people wanted weekly collections.
“Research shows that residents overwhelmingly prefer a regular and frequent rubbish collection, but under the previous administration the numbers of weekly services across the country halved while council tax doubled,” he said. “Cutting the frequency of collections is a lazy and unnecessary move.
“It is possible to increase recycling and still have comprehensive weekly service, through better procurement, more joint working and using incentive schemes.”
Campaigners said people were being forced to recycle more because bins simply could not hold enough waste to avoid overflowing after 14 days.
Doretta Cocks, founder of the Campaign for Weekly Waste Collection, said: “The idea of reducing frequency of residual waste collection is that people are forced to recycle by the lack of capacity in residual waste bins.
“This is a far speedier way of changing attitudes than education, which is costly and time-consuming. Unfortunately the end result is contamination of recycling materials.
“Residents are rarely asked whether they are happy with reduced frequency. If they are surveyed they are presented with the option of weekly collections with the most exaggerated costs quoted.”
A Defra spokesman said: “Across the country, people are cutting the amount of waste going to landfill by recycling more. They are not only protecting the environment, but fuelling a growing industry that reuses the things they throw away.
“More still needs to be done and we continue to push towards our aim of a zero waste economy, with businesses, councils and householders all doing their bit.”

Rubbish recycling companies are playing dirty

An important letter to all local authorities from the Local Government Association.

Judicial review of Waste Regulation: Recent press coverage

Dear Colleague,

As you may be aware, there is an important judicial review case currently under way involving a challenge to the current legal basis for waste and recycling collection.

The claimants in that case – UK Recyclate and a number of other recycling contractors – want some councils to be forced to change their arrangements at significant cost. The LGA is also a party to the case and is arguing that councils are legally entitled to retain a level of discretion to choose the appropriate arrangements for their areas.

A recent article in the Municipal Journal (MJ) by the claimants contains a number of factual inaccuracies and misleading statements. It appears to be designed to spread misinformation and persuade local authorities that the judicial review has already been decided and that they are at legal risk. The case has not been decided, and the purpose of this letter is to put the record straight.

What is at issue in the judicial review (UK Recyclate v Defra) is whether EU law requires every council to impose separate source collection of waste on its householders, outlawing co-mingled collection, or whether it permits co-mingling in appropriate cases. As you know, every local area is very different, and being forced to change to a single collection approach could have significant cost implications for many councils, and may well not be appropriate in many local circumstances.

The Government has recently made amended regulations in order to put the legal position beyond any doubt. Those regulations continue to allow for co-mingled collection where appropriate for local circumstances. They are the law of the land unless a court says otherwise. The LGA’s lawyers, and the Government’s, believe this approach is correct under EU law.

In the recent MJ article, the claimants’ lawyers attempt to tell councils that a judgment has already been made by the court and that councils which use co-mingled waste collection are now in a legally dubious position. This simply isn’t so. The judicial review is ongoing, but as yet there has been no hearing before a judge, and no finding made by the court.

As you will know, it is unusual for parties to litigation to run their arguments outside the courtroom while the case is ongoing. The MJ article therefore appears to be an attempt by the claimants to stir up local authority concern before the case even gets to a hearing, and suggests that they are arguing from a position of weakness.

It is of course in the commercial interest of the claimants that councils should move away from co-mingled collection. The LGA’s strong view is that the law permits councils discretion to make their own decisions in the light of local circumstances and in accordance with the clear legal provision made by the amended regulations.

Councils should certainly not be influenced by an inaccurate and misleading article written on behalf of parties with an obvious commercial agenda.

You may be asking yourself if there is anything you can do to influence the situation. The LGA is a party to the case and if you would like to follow events more closely and contribute, should the need arise, to developing evidence further, please do put an officer in contact with Abigail.burridge@local.gov.uk.

The LGA has also communicated with your officers about this case and will be happy to provide further information on the position.

Yours faithfully,

Cllr Mike Jones
Chairman of the LGA Environment and Housing Board

Personal note: I trust that when the dust has settled on this issue, all local authorities will consider very carefully, whether or not the companies involved in this legal action would make good partners in any future ventures.

Recycling ruling could be a nightmare

One of the many elephants in the local government room at present, could rapidly grow in to a giant mammoth, should a Judicial Review go the wrong way.

My thanks to the Local Government Chronicle website and author Mark Smulian for the text below.

Fresh delay for recycling judicial review
15 June, 2012 | By Mark Smulian

A crucial judicial review that could determine the future viability of council recycling services faces a second delay.
The case concerns the way in which the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs transposed European regulations into UK law.

Defra has said it is “seeking agreement on a short extension to the stay” through discussions with the claimants. The case was due to have started on 13 June after being delayed from last December.

It turns on whether or not the regulations allow recyclable material to continue to be ‘comingled’ – collected together for later sorting – or whether different materials must be collected separately, as the industry would prefer, at considerable extra cost to councils.

Defra’s present wording of the amended regulations would see commingled collections continue only where separate collections were not “technically, environmentally and economically practicable” or were necessary to meet “appropriate quality standards”.

The judicial review has been brought by the Campaign for Real Recycling, which opposes comingling and argues that Defra’s current wording is unclear.

For Sale – One Green and Pleasant Land

Much loved and well cared for over many generations, but now no longer needed because the custodians believe that they have the right to flog it off to pay some bills.

Maintaining the finest traditions of previous Tory Governments, most notably that of Margaret Thatcher, it now seems that our national woodlands and forests are now anybody’s for the taking.

Note I said custodians above, because that’s what the government is, the custodians on behalf of the nation, not the owners, with the right to dispose of them as they fancy.  As with so many politicians past and present, they seem to see the cross in the box on a ballot paper as a mandate to do what the hell they like, when the hell they like.

Reading today’s newspapers, it seem  100 plus prominent people have written to government, voicing their outrage at this latest proposal to sell off the family silver, or more accurately, to sell off the land of our children and their childrens’ children.

As prominent as these 100 people might be, unless millions of ordinary folk tell this government exactly what they think of this proposal, I suspect their words will be just that –words.

Given that the probable figure to be raised will be no more £100m, yet again one is forced to ask the most obvious of questions – why damage the homeland, whilst continuing to squander taxpayers’ money on that piece of political vanity called the overseas aid budget?

Britain’s overseas aid budget is not just ring-fenced at £6 billion; it will grow — by 2013 it should reach £9 billion. The Tories agreed this whilst in opposition, supporting Labour’s target of increasing the aid budget to a level equal to 0.7 per cent of GDP.

It’s bad enough to squander our hard earned money on this badly managed and allegedly often plunder fund in times of plenty.  To do it when our own people are suffering rocketing household bills, job losses and service cuts, as well as selling off assets such as our national forests and woodlands, in a bloody disgrace – shame on you My Cameron.