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Assessing the MRF Code

The announcement that DEFRA is on track with 90% of actions resulting from the June 2011 review of Waste Policy is good news. Not least because it signals that the implementation of the proposed MRF Code of Conduct is getting closer to becoming a reality.

DEFRA is currently conducting an impact assessment into the Code and, if ministers take the decision to make it mandatory, a consultation as part of the Environmental Permitting Regulations Consultation will take place later this summer. I certainly hope that the Code becomes mandatory as it will without doubt have a hugely positive impact on the UK’s materials sorting and separation sector.

While the Code shies away from setting acceptable contamination levels, it would require all local authorities to work only with those organisations that can adhere to its strict monitoring. While most of the latest MRFs have these systems in place, it will ensure that those older operations that do not run such a tight operation have to raise their games.

This will improve the stature of MRFs within the recycling and reprocessing sector, providing transparency, improving quality and ensuring that we can supply materials to meet reprocessing requirements both in the UK and the wider export markets.

I am hopeful that the Code will ultimately impact on more than just MRFs. As the Code states that material should be monitored on arrival at the facility it will identify the “delivered contamination level threshold” below which producing a reasonable quality material becomes an impossibility – regardless of technology used.

Here at the Casepak MRF we see the difference that delivered quality makes. Take for example our work with Rutland District Council; we perceive this to be a “good quality” contract whereby the delivered material has low levels of contamination. If all of our material could match this grade we’d be ecstatic. Unfortunately it doesn’t.

Just like any other MRF, we continue to battle with some poor materials; unlike others we have the technologies in place to make a difference. Now that the UK MRF sector has started to raise its game, we should work with collection agencies, local authorities and residents to maintain the forward momentum.