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Government Victorious in Waste Recycling Dispute

Paper in DustbinA group of waste recycling companies have failed to convince the High Court that a European Union directive requiring the separate collection of paper, metal, plastic and glass has been inaccurately transposed into United Kingdom (UK) regulations which leave detailed decisions on waste collection in the hands of local authorities.

Seven companies, all members of the Campaign for Real Recycling, argued that the UK government had failed to fully implement the provisions of European Directive 2008/98/EC (the Waste Framework Directive). It was submitted that the Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2011 represented a watering down of the directive’s requirements.

However, the court accepted arguments put forward by the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Welsh Ministers that the directive, whilst binding on member states in respect of the results to be achieved, left domestic governments to decide how that should be done.

Ruling that the regulations did represent a fair transposition of the directive into UK Law, the court ruled that separate collection of various forms of waste into different streams for the purposes of recycling was only required if that was ‘necessary’ to achieve the environmental and health benefits envisaged by the directive and ‘if technically, environmentally and economically practicable’.

The directive left the decision as to practicability of separate collection in the hands of national governments and the UK authorities were entitled to leave such decisions to local authorities under the supervision of the Environment Agency. Given the ‘clear and unambiguous’ wording of the directive, the court ruled that referring the issue for consideration by the European Court of Justice was neither necessary nor appropriate.