MRF Code of Practice unveiled

4th February 2013

Materials Recycling Facility

A long-awaited Code of Practice for materials recycling facilities has been launched for consultation by resource minister Lord de Mauley alongside a Quality Action Plan.


The draft Code of Practice will require all materials recycling facilities (MRFs) over a certain size to measure the quality of their inputs and outputs. The results from these tests would then be made available to businesses buying the recycling material as well as to local councils and others who supply material to the MRFs.

The mandatory code, which would apply in both England and Wales, is based on an initiative developed by the Environmental Services Association (ESA), the trade association for the waste management sector in the UK.

The MRF code would be delivered through changes to the Environmental Permitting Regulations in England and Wales, which would come into force on April 6 2014. Consultation on the proposals is now open on with responses due in by April 26 2013.

The regulations will require all permitted MRFs processing more than 1,000 tonnes of dry recyclate per annum, to routinely measure the quality of the input, output and residual waste streams. Based on industry feedback, Defra is proposing a sampling and testing regime which it believes balances practical and cost issues with the need to provide robust information on composition

While measures outlined in the MRF code and quality action plan are expected to cost businesses approximately £13 million to implement, the government anticipates that they will generate a net saving of £31 million through higher material revenue and reduced landfill costs, alongside avoided greenhouse gas emissions.

The Quality Action Plan sets out the measures that Defra is planning to implement over the next few years to drive high quality recycling. The focus is primarily on dry recyclables such as paper, glass, metals and plastics, however Defra said many of the principles also apply to food and garden waste.

Defra will also be undertaking a number of actions to help improve the quality of material which is exported. It will be asking the Environment Agency to explore the potential for improving the enforcement of waste shipment controls and work with the industry to improve awareness of the importance of exercising due diligence over where their recycling ends up.

The success of the action plan will be measured on a number of levels, including the proportion of outputs meeting reprocessor quality specifications, the amount of material achieving end of waste status and the number of MRFs implementing quality management systems.