Waste collection authorities were placed under a duty to prepare recycling plans by section 49 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Plans had to be submitted in draft to the Secretary of State so that their compliance with the detailed requirements of section 49 could be checked.
The Act enables the Secretary of State to set a statutory deadline for councils to send in their draft plans, but instead they were asked to submit them by 1 August 1992. Fewer than 70 authorities throughout Britain met this deadline, but most had complied by the end of 1992.
At the end of July, however, nine out of the 366 waste collection authorities in England had yet to submit recycling plans to the DoE, according to Mr Yeo. These are Amber Valley, Bolsover, Brent, Erewash, Great Yarmouth, and three West Midlands councils - Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton. The ninth, Blackburn, has sent in only an informal draft. The Minister gave no hint whether the DoE intends to use its statutory powers to bring the laggards into line.
At the end of May, the DoE had cleared 245 recycling plans as complying with the legal requirements,2 and clearance of the remainder is expected "by the end of the summer", said Mr Yeo. An evaluation of the plans prepared for the DoE by Coopers & Lybrand has yet to be published.
Meanwhile, in Scotland only 39 of the 56 authorities have sent in their draft plans. The Scottish Office has now cleared 24, but 10 authorities have been told to carry out further work. The remaining five are still under consideration.
Asked whether it would use its powers to order the remaining 17 councils to complete their plans, the Scottish Office told ENDS that "some Scotland authorities, for example in Highlands, Borders and parts of Strathclyde, indicated that they wished to undertake joint studies to consider the potential for regional solutions to waste management and recycling problems before they prepared their recycling plans. Other authorities wished to have firm recycling arrangements in place before completing their plans.
"The Scottish Office has been prepared to allow authorities the time they need to do this. Currently, plans are being received at a steady rate, and we hope that the Secretary of State will not need to use his powers of direction to force Scottish authorities to produce acceptable recycling plans."