Last Month (December 2013) MEPs vetoed proposals to change the point at which recovered paper is no longer classified as waste. The landmark decision followed months of lobbying from the Confederation of European Paper Industries (CEPI), which feared that the movement could obstruct recycling rates rather than improve them.
Had the Commission’s proposals been approved, paper would have ceased to be regarded as waste once it had been recovered or collected by a waste management company or merchant. However many feared that moving the ‘end of waste’ line from its current position with the paper mills, to an earlier paper processing stage, would have had a detrimental effect on recycling, the environment and, possibly, even consumer health.
Stuart Pohler, recovered paper sector manager for the UK’s Confederation of Paper Industries (part of the CEPI), explains: "We were concerned that, if used paper was to achieve end of waste status earlier in the recycling chain, the Waste Shipment Regulation’s environmental and health protection safeguards would no longer apply. Because a number of waste processors – particularly UK MRFs – are unable to meet the exacting quality standards required by paper makers, this could have resulted in recovered paper being sold with 15 times more impurities than paper product standards dictate.
"It was almost inevitable that recycling rates would have been adversely affected, paper-making efficiencies would have dropped and our ability to achieve pollution prevention would have been hindered. The industry could not have afforded this set-back, especially given the level of effort that has been invested to foster progress.
"This is reportedly the first time in history that a piece of environmental legislation has been voted down, but such strong opposition to the proposals was understandable and, in my opinion, very much welcomed.
"Of course I am supportive of industry developments that better support the waste hierarchy within the UK and wider Europe. And I understand the European Commission’s on-going efforts to implement regulations for ‘waste’ materials. However, at a time when we are striving to continually evolve, the proposed end of waste changes could have proved disastrous for paper. We cannot lose sight of quality standards, something the Commission readily acknowledges. Paper should, therefore, be regarded as waste until it has been fully reprocessed at the mills and is a marketable product."
Stuart Pohler will share more of his specialist insight into the implications of end of waste regulations for paper, at the End of Waste Conference on 30 January 2014. Conference tickets are £195.
To register, please visit www.regonline.co.uk/EndofWaste2014.