Initial Response To Defra Launch Of MRF Regulations

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Resource Association, the trade association for the reprocessing and recycling industries and their supply chain, today gave an initial reaction to the publication by Defra of the MRF Regulations, which were today laid in Parliament.

Chief Executive Ray Georgeson said: “We are pleased that the principle of regulating the input and output of materials from MRFs is now established and that there is Government recognition of the need to make improvements in this critical part of the recycling supply chain.”

“Throughout the development of these Regulations we have maintained the view that more intense levels of sampling at around fourfold that proposed originally by Defra in their consultation are still needed. We have worked hard with colleagues in the industry to find a workable compromise that meets the Governments’ desire to balance robustness with practicality and political deliverability but overall still meets the original objective of the Regulations – to address a market failure in this sector.”

“Our instincts are that the proposed regulations still fall a long way short of delivering that overall objective. They may prove to be so weak and easy to circumvent by rogue operators that they will not necessarily deliver confidence to reprocessors and the wider market that the data is worthwhile and useful.”

 “We appreciate that establishing new Regulations in the context of a deregulatory Government agenda has been challenging and Resource Association member companies will work with the new Regulations, but remain vigilant to ensure that if ineffectual the legislation can be quickly reframed to make a genuine difference.”

“The role of the Environment Agency is critical in this. They now need to come forward quickly with the proposed consultation on charging and permitting, and the practical application of guidance on sampling and monitoring of MRF operations. Robust implementation of weak regulations is not ideal, but it will go some way to bringing just a little confidence to the current approach of Government.”

 “The failure to fully grasp the quality nettle, after such a long gestation and consultation period, leaves us disappointed at the gap between the words of Ministers and officials about supporting UK reprocessors and boosting the green economy and the reality of their delivery. The circular economy will operate more effectively with high quality manufacturing processes that are more efficient and sustainable when fed with consistently high quality feedstock.  This point appears to have been deprioritised in these Regulations, it is a shame that the failure to grasp that, on occasions, robust regulation is good for the environmental industries that create jobs and reduce carbon emissions will have consequences for the UK reprocessor investment climate.”

Chairman Andy Doran also said: “UK reprocessors require high quality materials, and these are generally more reliably obtained through source separation systems than mixed collection systems.    We recognise though that co-mingled collection plays a part in the UK’s present system, and have always seen the robustness needed in the MRF Regulations as an essential element if local authorities are to be able to demonstrate that the output of their co-mingled collections can, through MRF sorting, emerge as equivalent to source separated and therefore potentially demonstrate compliance with English legislation transposing the separate collection requirements of the revised Waste Framework Directive.  Without a genuinely robust sampling and inspection regime, there are serious questions about whether the MRF Regulations as laid can actually assist in delivering the evidence local councils will need to demonstrate this compliance if they seek to continue to co-mingle after 1st January 2015.”

“When we meet the Minister later this month we will be seeking his reassurance that his Department will exercise vigilance in monitoring the impact of the regulations.  This is by no means ‘job done’ on recyclate quality - far from it.”



  1. The MRF Regulations have been laid in Parliament as part of a review of environmental permitting in the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2014.  Subject to Parliamentary approval they are due to come into force on 1st October 2014.  They can be found at
  2. The Resource Association focuses on championing the value of UK reprocessing and recycling in terms of employment, resource efficiency and integrity, carbon reduction and our role in the low-carbon, green economy.  It works with Governments across the UK, the European Commission, other trade associations and stakeholders with shared interests.  Today we have 29 member companies and organisations representing an estimated £2.7bn contribution to UK GDP, the recovery and recycling of over 7 million tonnes annually and the employment of over 7,000 people.  Further information at  
  3. The Association has played a continuing role in the debate about the objectives and the detail of the legislation, advocating strongly for a more robust sampling and inspection regime which we consider necessary for the Government to fulfil the objectives for improving recyclate quality that they themselves set out in their Recyclate Quality Action Plan last year.  The full detail of our original submission to the Government’s consultation on the MRF Regulations can be found at
  4. The headline summary of our consultation response focused on three key points (extracted from the summary of the consultation response). It is the first of these that is still lacking in the current regulations as tabled today:
  •  Greater intensity in the proposed sampling regime is needed, both in terms of sample size and frequency.  In particular, the proposed sample sizes for input and paper are low and need to be increased fourfold.  On frequency, more work is needed to ensure sampling in representative by time and supplier of material whilst balancing the need to keep the regulatory impact to reasonable levels.  The absence of guidance on sampling methodology needs to be addressed urgently by Defra and we remain available to assist with this in the next period.
  • Audit and enforcement arrangements need to be more robust.  In particular, the Environment Agency must have a clear mandate for enforcement and this must include twice yearly unannounced permitting enforcement visits.  Unannounced must mean just that – unannounced, and must include the ability to take physical samples and have the right to interview operatives as well as site management. 
  • Full transparency of MRF data to aid market intelligence as indicated by Defra is supported by us, and we consider this essential if Defra’s desired aim of improved market intelligence to aid reprocessors in understanding the outputs of MRFs is to be achieved.