Local authorities in the UK have firmly backed EU leadership and direction of the country’s waste and environmental policies.
LARAC, which represents 75% of local authorities in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, has told Defra and the energy department: “We consider that UK environmental legislation has benefited from EU Directives and that this situation should continue.”
The conclusion came in response to ministers’ calls for evidence in May on a review of the balance of competencies between the EU and the UK.
LARAC argues that successive British governments have relied on the “market economy” model and a commercial imperative which tends towards greatest profit.
“In this context, without EU legislation in environmental issues, the UK would have had a greater reliance on landfill and contributed more to global warming than it currently has, and had a recycling infrastructure still geared to only paper, metal and glass,” the response says.
“This ‘commercial’ attitude can still be seen in the need for UK waste management companies to send much recyclate abroad for the greatest profit, rather than invest in a UK infrastructure to provide quality secondary material suitable for UK markets.”
LARAC says the national interest would be better served if legislation was to come out of Europe, rather than the system of subsidiarity that currently gives member states leeway to enact their own policies.
It quotes the example of UK packaging legislation, which it says relates only to large organisations and does not require SMEs to recycle their waste. In addition, local authorities are said to have been disadvantaged by having to collect packaging from households for free and arrange for its recycling when it should be a cost for the producer.
“UK legislation on this is a clear indication that the supposed needs of business have been taken more heed of than the original intention of the Directive, and put UK local authorities at a financial disadvantage to their European counterparts,” it says.
Looking ahead, LARAC tells Defra and DECC that there must be greater acknowledgement in future UK legislation arising from EU Directives of the “producer pays” principle, and all future legislation must include for the majority of costs incurred to be recovered from the producer.