Councils support clarification of municipal waste definition

Most local authorities support proposals by the Environment Department (DEFRA) to clarify the definition of municipal waste under the English landfill allowance trading scheme (LATS).

Last year, DEFRA proposed changing the definition in the Waste Emissions Trading (WET) Act 2003 so it is the same as the definition in the LATS guidance (ENDS Report 390, p 46 ). This would change the definition from "waste from households or waste that… is similar to waste from households" to one that simply defines municipal waste as "all waste under the control of local authorities".

The issue has confused authorities about what they should report under LATS, and some are concerned that the wider definition in the LATS guidance greatly increases the amount of waste they have to divert from landfill.

Most notably, the Western Riverside Waste Authority in London launched a judicial review against the LATS guidance definition last year, but this was put on hold until the consultation ended.

Some 99% of respondents agreed the definition of municipal waste needs clarification, according to a summary of in-consultation responses published by DEFRA in February.1 Around 53% said the best option was to change the WET Act. But two thirds of these asked for some wastes to be excluded, notably that from council housing and grounds-maintenance departments, and fly-tipped waste. Around 43% said that the LATS guidance definition should be changed instead.

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