A court hearing at the end of February '13 could determine the future of co-mingled recycling collections in England and Wales.
At the four day Judicial Review hearing at Cardiff Administrative Court, the judge will consider the legal challenge brought about by six members of the Campaign for Real Recycling (CRR) against Defra and the Welsh Government’s interpretation of ‘separate’ collections under the Waste Framework Directive.
Local authorities and waste management firms will be hoping for the hearing to provide certainty in the future of co-mingled collections, as the case has been ongoing since early 2011.
Should the case go against Defra, it is likely there would be an appeal to the European Courts of Justice, which could lead to further delays in determining the outcome of the dispute.
Much of the debate is likely to centre on Article 11 of the WFD, which states that Member States are required to “set up separate collections of waste where technically, environmentally and economically practicable and appropriate to meet the necessary quality standards for the relevant recycling sectors”.
In its original interpretation of the Directive, Defra stated that co-mingled collections were a form of separate collections. However, when this was challenged by the CRR, the government amended the wording of the regulations in July 2012, stating that separate collections are required 'where they are TEEP' (technically, environmentally and economically practicable).
Local authorities are keen for a speedy resolution to the case, as uncertainty over the future of co-mingling is leading to councils being unable to plan for possible changes to collection services.
Mal Williams, chairman of the CRR, said: “We maintain that separate collections, as required by the Waste Framework Directive, are the best way forward in both economic and environmental terms. This hearing represents an opportunity to clarify what constitutes separate collection and high quality recycling."