North London councils have called for stricter legislation and stronger Government leadership on waste prevention measures.
Stakeholders across the recycling industry were urged to engage with decision makers at a North London Waste Authority (NLWA) conference, as the European Commission’s circular economy (CE) package begins its route into legislation.
Sustainability consultancy Anthesis said it was highly likely the Government would prioritise voluntary schemes over legislation in order to meet the CE package’s proposed 65% municipal recycling target by 2030.
The consultancy’s associate director Debbie Hitchen urged stakeholders to influence the package’s transition into UK laws, which she said could take two years.
“During that time there will be effectd that become more visible to us, but there will be opportunities for each of us and the trade bodies who represent us to put our stamp on how its transition into the UK’s framework legislation and policy.”
NWLA chair Clyde Loakes backed Hitchen’s call to arms, urging stakeholders not to miss the opportunity to shape policy while waiting for the outcome of an expected referendum on the country’s EU membership.
But Loakes pushed for more statutory measures rather than the voluntary arrangements currently favoured by the Government, such as WRAP’s Courtauld Commitments for food waste reduction.
Dozens of retailers, food and drinks companies and organisations, including the British Retail Consortium, signed up to previous phases of the initiative, which included targets for reducing household food and drink waste.
“We cannot deliver the stuff that we need to based purely on voluntary nature of our relationships with some of the big producers of the service industries. It is just not fit for purpose for the agenda we need to achieve,” Loakes said.
Loakes also said that Defra was “heavily undercapacity” on its waste and recycling remit with the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) “leading for years”.
Speaking to MRW after his speech, Loakes said the Government had not been keen to introduce statutory recycling legislation since before 2010 for fear of overburdening businesses.
He also said non-compliance recycling fines for residents, a tool previously used by many London councils, were given a bad press by former DCLG secretary Eric Pickles, who restricted powers to implement such schemes in his Deregulation Act 2015.
Other issues at the NLWA conference
WRAP’s ’Love Food, Hate Waste’ manager James McGowan said the campaign’s focus was on small changes on behaviour to add up to “big wins”.
Zero Waste Scotland head of communications Jon Molyneux said a 70% rollout of food waste collections to non-rural households had been completed, while the Scottish Government was looking to extend this to rural residents.
Camden Borough Council’s recycling spokesperson said residents were confused by the mixed messaged of reducing food waste while increasing the amount of the material they recycle.
McGowan said his campaign made a clear distinction to residents between residual and avoidable food waste.
NLWA’s members are the London boroughs of Barnet, Camden, Enfield, Hackney, Harringey, Islington and Waltham Forest.
Speaking to MRW at the NLWA’s Waste Prevention Exchange, borough respresentatives said that methods to boost reuse and recycling in each area needed to be tailored to individual circumstances. However, they all said sharing strategies through the NLWA was worthwhile.