Separate collection of waste paper, plastic, metal or glass

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

Waste collectors

If you collect waste you may need to set up separate collections of waste for:

  • paper (includes card and cardboard)
  • plastic
  • metal
  • glass

This means collecting these 4 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:

  • necessary, to ensure that waste is recovered in accordance with Articles 4 and 13 of the Waste Framework Directive, and to help or improve recovery (the ‘necessity test’)
  • technically, environmentally and 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)

See the regulation for details.

You should help businesses producing waste to avoid putting paper, plastic, metal or glass in the same container as their general waste.

How to comply

You must show that you’re taking reasonable measures to follow the regulation. If you decide that you do not need to collect the 4 wastes separately, you should keep evidence of your evaluation, analysis and decisions (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 requirements of the regulation.

Waste producers: the implications

The legal requirement to separately collect paper, plastic, metal and glass only applies to waste collectors. However, waste producers may find more opportunities to separate these 4 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 and correctly dispose of their waste.

Remixing separately collected dry recyclables

Where paper, plastic, metal or glass have been separately collected they must not be mixed with other waste or material. This duty applies where keeping waste separate is necessary to ensure that waste is recovered in accordance with Articles 4 and 13 of the Waste Framework Directive, and to facilitate or improve recovery.

This requirement does not apply where wastes were collected co-mingled, for example plastic and metal together. This regulation applies to waste carriers and operators receiving waste, for example waste treatment facilities.

The Environment Agency enforces these regulations in England. See the Environment Agency enforcement and sanctions policy.

Published 19 December 2014