Residents told items such as sofas and armchairs cannot be taken to Household Waste Recycling Centres in Cambridgeshire from 1 January

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With effect from 1 January items such as upholstered sofas, upholstered chairs, cushions and beanbags will no longer be accepted at Cambridgeshire County Council-owned household waste and recycling centres, such as the one at Witchford.

This is due to enforcement action now being taken by the Environment Agency from 1 January.

As a result, also with effect from 1 January, East Cambs Street Scene will not currently be able to collect these items as part of its household or bulky waste collections. This is because there are no Household Waste Recycling Centres in Cambridgeshire that will be able to dispose of them.

We are urgently working with Cambridgeshire County Council and our partners to resolve this.

In the meantime, residents are being advised to try and use re-use schemes or retailer take-back initiatives where available. Alternatively please retain these items until we can provide a further update.

Under the legislation, Persistent Organic Pollutants (known as POPs) cannot be disposed of in landfill – which is currently how Cambridge County Council dispose of all waste that cannot be recycled.

POPs are found in waste upholstered domestic seating (WUDS) textiles and foams treated with fire retardants, such as sofas, chairs, cushions or beanbags.

Despite appeals from Cambridgeshire County Council to the Environment Agency to delay the enforcement of the regulations to allow alternative measures to be put in place for waste operators and residents, the new changes will come into effect from 1 January.

This final decision was confirmed to East Cambridgeshire District Council on Thursday 29 December 2022.

Unfortunately, it means that until an alternative route of disposal is agreed with Cambridgeshire County Council and the Environment Agency, East Cambs Street Scene which collects waste on behalf of East Cambridgeshire District Council cannot accept any POPs material via its waste, recycling or bulky waste collections with effect from Sunday 1 January.

Legislation relating to POPs was first enacted in 2007 but has not previously been enforced by the Environment Agency. It requires any POPs waste to be incinerated and not landfilled – and this would also include any non-POPs waste that may have come into contact with it, and therefore may also be contaminated.  A confirmed list of incinerators able to receive POPs has not yet been supplied to East Cambridgeshire District Council.

Cllr Anna Bailey, Leader of East Cambridgeshire District Council, said: “This Council declared a climate emergency back in 2019 and since then has been doing everything it can to become net carbon zero by 2040.

“However, it is very disappointing to learn this will be coming in to force on 1 January before alternative arrangements can be put in place.

“We will be working closely with Cambridgeshire County Council which is the waste disposal authority to discuss how best to manage the situation in the interim, whilst a longer-term solution can be secured.

“In the meantime, given the fact that neither the Council or our waste contractor can operate illegally, then we have no choice but to cease the acceptance of Waste Upholstered Domestic Seating. We will also do our very best to inform residents – many of whom will be looking to dispose of sofas and chairs after making new purchases over the festive period – that they will not be able to do so via a Household Waste Recycling Centre in Cambridgeshire from Sunday. Instead, we ask that they take advantage of re-use schemes or trade-in initiatives used by retailers or hold onto such items until we can provide an update.”

If you would like to use a private waste collection service to dispose of foam-filled furniture please check the waste carriers are licenced and that they are taking the items for incineration. This is because no Household Waste Recycling Centres in Cambridgeshire will accept them and if the items are subsequently fly-tipped residents risk prosecution as well as the waste carrier.