The past month has been a bit of a roller-coaster for the whole country as Brexit negotiations once again put the Government’s legislative programme on hold. It’s frustrating for industry and journalists alike, and in moments like these we just have to sit tight and hope for the best.
But there is an end in sight. Defra has told MRW the latest household recycling statistics for England will be published at 9.30am on 11 December. Rumours are flying around the sector that the strategy could be launched to coincide with this - but again Brexit may get in the way.
In the meantime, yet more stories about masses of plastics being found in the stomachs of dead whales shows there’s no end in sight of the public’s concern with waste. And where the public leads, businesses follow.
The Prince of Wales has also been making a number of comments on waste management recently, and it turns out these were leading up to his appearance at the launch of Business in the Community’s (BITC) Waste to Wealth Commitment.
This high-profile event is the latest in a series of voluntary deals that seem to be filling the policy void. WRAP’s Plastics Pact is also developing at a pace, and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation is striking voluntary deals with businesses all over the world.
There is a lot of glitz and glamour associated with these kinds of launches as firms look to get column inches about their green credentials. But for some, the only real way to effect change is through concerted government action.
Professor Elizabeth Kirk, director of the Centre for Marine Ecological Resilience and Geological Resources at Nottingham Law School, has collaborated on a paper arguing just that.
She contrasted Kenya, which has banned the production, import, export and employment of single-use plastic bags, with the UK’s “less stringent” levy: “This raises the question of why more is not being done at the state level and what exactly international law requires of states in relation to marine plastics pollution from land-based pollution.”
She is not the only one to be suspicious - MRW has heard criticism over both the Plastics Pact and BITC’s new initiative from influential sources in the sector.
But others argue voluntary deals can be a faster way to effect change than the cumbersome legislative process. Whatever your view, businesses need to be challenged and held to account over their contribution to waste management and recycling.
On a final note, MRW is proud to have launched the National Recycling Awards 2019. We feel the event helps the industry lead by example, no matter what politician do – or don’t do.