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MRF code poses red-tape danger to small operators

United Kingdom – As the UK’€™s Material Recycling Facility (MRF) code of practice takes shape, the Recycling Association is voicing concern that smaller players may suffer financially from extensive, mandatory quality testing.

The last update by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) stated that the upcoming code would establish a ‘€˜consistent, industry-wide method for sampling and testing the quality of input and output material streams’€™. The code, which is expected to cover paper and cardboard, steel and aluminium, plastics and glass, will not outline specific quality standards, but Defra explains they will not be limited to MRFs.

While accepting that the document was still a work in progress, Simon Ellin, Chief Executive of the UK Recycling Association, said it was inevitable that a minimum level of test procedures would be required to ensure the quality of the final product. The investment necessary would be unlikely to change how large-scale recyclers did business but he warned that the code could impact on small operators.

‘€˜The concern is over the criteria that governs what is an MRF, and that is any facility that processes more than 1000 tonnes a year of material and separates out any two components of cardboard, glass, plastics and metals,’€™ Mr Ellin told ‘€˜What we fear is that members that might have a small trommel in the yard will become classified as an MRF as well ‘€“ and are then wrapped in more red tape.’€™

Anxious that costs could soar, putting additional pressure on businesses, Mr Ellin suggests a voluntary approach, which he believes is a valid alternative if councils were to take charge and embed the code into contracts.

The Environmental Services Association (ESA) strongly disagrees. ‘€˜We think this is a good change for the market and we don’€™t see why they shouldn’€™t make this mandatory,’€™ responded David Sher, ESA Policy Advisor for Materials and Energy Recovery.

‘€˜It will affect reprocessors as well, moving down the supply chain. They have a stake in this as a customer. These are changes in the stock of the market that we think should be to the benefit of the whole supply chain,’€™ Mr Sher explained. ‘€˜We think it is a good idea and we are keen to see it taken forward to get both the regulations to back it up and the broad industry consensus to make it work.’€™

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