12 October 2020 by Steve Eminton

Scotland ‘moves goalposts’ on commingling

Scotland is to get a new definition of commingling which appears to be ‘moving the goalposts’ for recyclables sorted at materials recycling facilities.

The change to commingling comes in legislation laid before the Scottish Parliament on 9 October as part of its measures to transpose the EU Circular Economy Package and ban the landfilling of biodegradable waste.

[Update 12 October: Similar changes relating to commingling are proposed for England and Wales with regard to comparable quality]

Scottish legislation

The legislation is: The Waste (Miscellaneous Amendments) (Scotland) Regulations 2020.

The new approach to commingling is an “intended change”

Gary Gray, from Scotland’s Zero Waste Unit in the Environment and Forestry Directorate, has written to stakeholders explaining that “the planned changes are mainly technical, including alignment of definitions, terms and powers.”

But on recycling and commingling, letsrecycle.com has been told by one Scottish recycling expert that a “subtle change which has in effect moved the goalposts”, has been introduced by the Scottish Government .

This is a reference to what is described by the Zero Waste Unit official as an intended change of the Amendments to regulations.

Quality

The official describes the changes as meaning that: “Dry recyclable waste may only be co-mingled where material quantity and quality is ‘comparable’ to that which would be achieved via separate collection. Previously quantity and quality must have been ‘not significantly less’ than separate collection and we have made this change to better align with the Directive.”

“Dry recyclable waste may only be co-mingled where material quantity and quality is ‘comparable’ to that which would be achieved via separate collection.”

Gary Gray, Zero Waste Unit

In short, commingled collections in the future will have to achieve comparable volumes and quality to separate collections.

TEEP

The status of commingled collections has long been a subject of debate and in England and Wales there has been much discussion of the TEEP rules, which allow for concessions where TEEP stands for technically, environmentally and economically practicable. Separate collections are required but this doesn’t have to happen if it can be shown that one or more of these concessions apply.

The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is currently looking at the role of the TEEP definition in its work on consistent collections. In the past (in 2019) the then recycling and resource minister Therese Coffey suggested there would be changes to the TEEP rules (see letsrecycle.com story )

Other changes

Other changes in the Scottish Amendments include:

  • A new requirement to take into account good practices when separately collecting waste oils alongside the existing requirement to collect waste oils separately.
  • The National Waste Management Plan for Scotland is to include a statement of Scottish Ministers’ policies in relation to a set of waste prevention measures, such as sustainable production and consumption and reducing waste, and targets for recycling certain materials. These will be included at the next update of the Plan.
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