Separate collection of waste paper, plastic, metal and glass

From 1 January 2015 public and private waste collectors must follow the regulation on collecting certain waste types separately.

Waste collectors

If you collect waste you must set up separate collections of waste:

  • paper
  • plastic
  • metal
  • glass

This means collecting these four wastes separately from each other and from other wastes. This applies to commercial (trade), industrial and household waste.

You must do this if it’s both:

  1. necessary, to produce high quality recyclates (the ‘necessity test’)
  2. technically, environmentally or economically practicable to do so (the ‘TEEP test’)

See European Commission guidance (paragraphs 4.3.4 and 4.4) for guidance on the Necessity and TEEP (practicability) tests.

You must do this to increase the:

  • quantity of waste for recycling
  • quality of recycled material (by lowering the level of contamination)

You should enable businesses producing waste to avoid putting paper, glass, plastics and metals in the same container as their general waste.

See the regulation and Minister’s letter for the detail.

How to comply

You must show that you’re taking reasonable measures to follow the regulation from January 2015. If you judge that you’re not required to collect the four materials separately, you need to keep evidence of your evaluation, analysis and the decisions you made (known as an audit trail). You may need to present this to your environmental regulator if asked for it. You should periodically check your collection systems to make sure you continue to meet the necessity and practicability tests.

The Environment Agency enforces these regulations in England. See the enforcement, sanctions and offences guidance.

Waste producers: the implications

The legal requirement to separately collect plastic, paper, glass and metal only applies to waste collectors. But waste producers may find more opportunities to separate these four wastes because the collector offers a separate collection service for them. Waste producers have a legal duty to take all reasonable steps to apply the waste hierarchy.

Remixing separately collected dry recyclables

Where paper, plastic, glass or metal has been separately collected it must not be mixed with other waste or material with different properties. This is to help:

  • achieve more recycling
  • reduce the impact on human health and the environment (by removing harmful elements of the waste)

This applies to waste carriers and operators receiving waste (eg waste treatment facilities).

Published 19 December 2014