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Defra must not 'step back' from waste industry, Efra told

England will miss the EU-set target of recycling 50% of household waste by 2020 if Defra further disengages from policy-making in the waste industry, according to Sita UK chief executive David Palmer Jones.

Palmer-Jones was speaking at the second session of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Efra) Committee’s inquiry on waste management. When asked directly by one of the panel members if the England target would be met, he replied: “Not if Defra steps back and not if local government does not accept the targets too.”

He added: “There is no way, in my mind, that Defra can step back. We also need the ability to place recycled material into a product-driven market, which the UK doesn’t currently have.”

Furthermore, he predicted a dip in recycling rates due to councils charging for collection of garden waste, which had triggered a decrease in the amount being collected.

Viridor director Dan Cooke, who was also on the panel, agreed that it would be “dangerous” for the Government to step back from the waste industry. “It’s touch-and-go whether we meet the targets, certainly [so] if the Government takes its foot off the throttle,” he said.

Cooke pointed out that there is currently an opportunity to recycle greater volumes of some materials, such as plastic and that food and organic waste collection still has “room to improve”.

What was more important according to Cooke, was “a radical re-think on not just collection but producer responsibility”.

The final member of the panel, Eco Plastics founder Jonathan Short said that it “seemed crazy” to burn a resource in energy-from-waste plants rather than recycling it.

Efra’s remit is to examine waste management in England and the impact of Defra’s stated withdrawal from some policy areas.

In the first session earlier this month CIWM chief executive Steve Lee also told MPs that it was “increasingly likely” that England would miss the 50% recycling target.

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