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Call to MPs to intervene over Defra waste strategy

2000 ray georgeson

The Resource Association (RA) has added its voice to criticism of Defra for apparently failing to acknowledge the role of the waste sector, recycling targets or the circular economy (CE) proposals from Brussels.

It accuses ministers of a lack of transparency, and claims the UK is taking “negative positions” on many of the CE proposals without sharing them with the waste industry.

Concern was raised by publication on 19 February of Defra’s Single Departmental Plan: 2015 to 2020, setting out the department’s strategy for the next four years. The only reference to the industry was a commitment to tackle waste crime.

That prompted Steve Lee, chief executive of the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management, to issue a strongly worded critique, including alarm at an absence of any reference to the CE package.

“The stark picture here is of a department that is utterly depleted in terms of resources, funding and vision,” Lee said.

”We are led to understand by colleagues in the European Commission that the UK Government is taking negative positions on many of the proposals”

Ray Georgeson, chief executive Resource Association

RA chief executive Ray Georgeson (pictured above) echoes that tone in a letter (see file, attached) to Mary Creagh, the MP who this month took over as chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, which monitors how Whitehall contributes to environmental protection and sustainable development. 

“The recent publication by Defra of their departmental plan has been met with dismay … as it makes no reference whatsoever to the department’s role in delivering household recycling targets for England or even any reference to the expected revisions to waste legislation and new proposals from the Commission under its CE package,” he wrote.

Georgeson said this was a major omission and raised questions about the department’s ambition and interest in the waste and resources sector.

He also reported concern within the industry “about the lack of transparency and clarity” over the CE package. He noted that, apart from a couple of stakeholder consultation events, there had been very little information from ministers or officials.

“We are led to understand by colleagues in the European Commission that the UK Government is taking negative positions on many of the proposals, and yet none of this has been properly shared or communicated with stakeholders at home.

“The reality is that, if this is true, then on many aspects of the Commission’s proposals, it is quite possible the UK Government is not at all speaking for significant elements of the UK industry who see much merit in the more ambitious proposals coming from the Commission, even though detail needs to be worked upon.”

In calling on Creagh to launch a committee hearing, Georgeson says: “We would like to see a more open debate from the Government and acknowledgement that good regulation aids market making, investment and long-term sustainability. We hope you will be able to bring this debate to the fore by scrutinising the matters I have raised.”

The Environmental Services Association executive director Jacob Hayler said the waste industry had been “crying out” for a waste strategy for England and the absence of which “was really harming investment in our sector”.

Hayler said the minister had “challenged the industry” to help come up with long term policies to support the CE.

“ESA therefore looks forward to working with the minister to set in place a framework that will boost investment, create jobs and add value for the UK for the next 15 years and beyond.”

Speaking in the House of Commons on 22 February about the arrangements for household collections in South Gloucestershire, resource minister Rory Stewart said: “If we can get [collections] right, Britain can be a national example.

”Our great environmental industries can take off, we can export some of these skills and we can show the world that we are an environmental leader. We can also make British jobs and generate energy out of it, we can have a much better CE and it will be good for our production.”

A spokesman for Defra told MRW: “We are developing our 25 Year Environment Plan to cover all aspects of the environment, including waste.”

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