As summer approached Defra’s budget was dramatically slashed, leading to fears the department would not be able to push forward waste policy.
Fears became reality later on in the year when resources minister Dan Rogerson announced a policy retreat. Also in May and June, packaging targets were contested, and the PRN system put under strain from fraud and volatile markets.
Defra and WRAP are holding a joint event later this month to discuss how to improve growth and investment in the waste and recycling industry.
Defra told MRW that a cross-departmental event was being planned “to talk about the barriers and solutions for private sector investment”. A spokesman said key stakeholders in the industry and investors will be meeting with Defra officials, and possibly representatives from the business department, on 22 May.
PRN frauds could soon be rife if prices rocket as a result of China’s ‘green fence’ policy.
That warning has come from Roger Baynham, chairman of the British Plastics Federation’s Recycling Group, as China’s crackdown on poor quality recyclables continued to jangle nerves across the industry with warnings of ‘panic’ among recyclers of all kinds.
Fears are growing that the blocking of exports to China will trigger a sharp rise in PRNs as the domestic reprocessing industry cannot easily handle increased volumes, except for plastic bottles.
Recycling targets for glass, plastics and steel need “urgent review”, an industry expert has said, after publication of first quarter data for recovering and recycling of packaging waste.
Figures from the Environment Agency (EA) shows demand for PRNs is falling, following figures published for supply last month.
Phil Conran, director of consultancy 360 Environmental, said: “Comparing the reported (EA) data to Defra’s placed-on-market data shows the ridiculous anomalies where glass, steel and plastic are all around 70% whereas the other materials are all 90% or more.
Two of the three council partnerships affected by a Defra’s withdrawal of Private Finance Initiative (PFI) credits for waste projects are seeking a judicial review on the department’s decision.
North Yorkshire and City of York councils and Bradford and Calderdale councils have applied to the High Court on 20 and 21 May, respectively, seeking leave to bring a judicial review (JR) on Defra’s decision to withdraw PFI funding.
Bradford and Calderdale councils had £62.1m of PFI support removed from their waste treatment plant project in Bradford, while North Yorkshire and City of York councils had £65m in PFI credits removed, which were allocated towards a waste park and incinerator at Allerton, North Yorkshire.
Revenues from landfill tax should be reinvested in joint local authority and private sector waste projects to generate income for cash-strapped councils, the Local Government Association (LGA) has said.
Councils have been hit with 33% funding cuts over the past three years and further cuts are expected in the next spending round. But the LGA’s review of the waste management industry, ‘Wealth from Waste’, argues the waste and recycling industry could help local authorities generate £1bn by 2020.
Metal theft has halved in the past year despite continuing concerns from scrap dealers over police enforcement of the cash ban, which has been in place for the past six months.
Detective Superintendent Alison Evans, who leads the British Transport Police (BTP) taskforce on metal theft, told MRW: “From 2011/12 to 2012/13, we’ve seen a decrease in overall metal theft by 47% and a decrease on railways (the BTP’s responsibility), by 51%.”
Speaking exclusively to MRW, Evans said the decrease will have been influenced by the cash ban but it was not solely down to the change in the law in England and Wales on 3 December 2012.
Cuts of 10% to the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ (Defra) budget for the financial year 2015/16 have been announced by the chancellor George Osborne as part of the Spending Review.
Other savings which could affect the waste industry were: the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) 10%; the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) 8%; and the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) 6%.
A Defra spokesperson said: “Our settlement enables us to make our contribution to reducing the deficit, while still meeting our objectives and priorities. We will do so through efficiencies and working smarter where we can.”