MRF Environmental Permits will need to comply with a Code of Practice

Defra Consultation: Consultation on draft Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) Regulations for insertion into Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2013
Consultation on draft Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) Regulations for insertion into Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2013

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Welsh Government’s environment minister John Griffiths agreed earlier this month to consult on introducing a mandatory code of practice via the insertion of a new Schedule in the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2010, which covers MRFs (Material Recycling Facilities).

The consultation on the code is expected to be issued soon alongside a Quality Action Plan and will be similar to the code launched in Scotland in October 2012.

The move to make the materials recycling facility (MRF) code compulsory comes in the wake of a legal challenge to the way the EU revised waste framework Directive was implemented in England and Wales and has resulted in a need to demonstrate that co-mingled collections can produce quality comparable to that produced by kerbside sort collection systems.

The code is expected to require MRF operators to introduce quality management systems and checks, ensure that outputs are accepted by reprocessors and ensure that materials are handled in accordance with good industry practice through the following:

  • To require evidence that material is staying within the legal waste management chain, and where exported all the necessary legislation is complied with and the material goes to an authorised reprocessor.
  • Quality control systems will have to be put in place by MRF operators for testing, assessing and accepting or rejecting waste inputs. In addition, the quality and quantity of waste outputs will have to be measured and monitored.
  • For mixed input streams, the consultation is expected to require two 25 kg samples to be taken per week or for every 200 tonnes sorted, whichever is more frequent.
  • For residual waste, it is thought that one 2kg sample will have to be taken every week or for every 100 tonnes of waste sorted. Meanwhile, sampling is also expected once a week for the following: metals, glass, plastics and paper.
  • To help reduce illegal exports, MRF operators are expected to have to prove they have necessary control systems in place to ensure waste exported out of UK has reached and been accepted by a reprocessor and where brokers and dealers involved to ensure all required documentation completed.
  • Where facilities provide waste to broker or dealer, they are also expected to be required to enter a written agreement with them requiring the broker or dealer to provide any details of past convictions for criminal offences concerning their professional conducts and affirming that they hold all necessary permits and consents and specifications for waste.
  • Facility operators are also expected to be required to operate to good health and safety standards and have all correct permits in place alongside environmental management systems.

These development, especially the last bullet-point, is yet another sign that the government is moving towards the recognition of accredited certification of environmental, quality and health and safety management systems as a route to obtain compliance with environmental regulations.

This code of practice could build upon the concept of “earned autonomy” that is being developed by the Environment Agency as reported in “Developments in Environmental Protection”.

For further information about the consultation, a copy of the Defra Consultation document can be found at and the associated Impact Assessment can be found at

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