English councils will from April be required to record additional information on the end destination of the residual waste and recyclate they collect, Defra has said.
The announcement came in response to a Parliamentary review of waste management in England.
Defra said responses to the WasteDataFlow system will include a new question, known as ‘Question 100’, which will require councils to indicate all treatments and final destinations of residual, recycling, reuse and composting waste.
The department said the move followed the success of a voluntary roll-out with 59 local authorities in 2014. The information will complement the End Destination of Recycling Charter, a voluntary initiative led by the Resource Association.
A similar system is already in place in Wales.
The announcement was part of Defra’s response to an inquiry by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs committee (Efra) last year.
The key conclusion, in the face of stalled recycling figures in England, was a call for Defra to reverse what it had described as a “step back” from waste policy.
But the department maintained it has simply refocused activities in areas that only Government “can and must do”. It noted that the latest statistics had shown that many councils were already recycling half of their waste, and the department had committed England to achieve the EU-set 50% target by 2020.
“We are working closely with WRAP to review evidence on barriers to further increasing recycling, and to help local authorities and householders to recycle more,” it said.
For the first time Defra has clearly stated that it would not be in favour of higher objectives. A 70% recycling target by 2030 was included in a policy package from the European Commission that has recently been dropped from its programme of future work.
“We do not support stringent new targets unless there are clear economic and environmental benefits that exceed the costs,” said Defra.
It also rejected Efra’s recommendation for a ban on recyclable waste to landfill by 2025. It said: “We believe there are more efficient options than restrictions in this area, and evidence suggests that restrictions would likely impose additional costs on businesses, particularly SMEs.”
Defra restated its commitment to tackle waste crime and fire at recycling facilities. More than 85% of the sites identified as high risk by the Environment Agency are currently subject to enforcement action, and the department is considering granting further powers to the regulator.
ESA’s executive director, Jacob Hayler said: “It is disappointing that Defra remains focused narrowly on meeting our European targets and continues to forego opportunities for the UK to take a lead on resource issues. It is apparent from its response to the Efra report that the Government continues to see waste as a potential cost and not an opportunity.”
Ray Georgeson, chief executive of the Resource Association, welcomed the policy shift on Question 100 but said he was “disappointed and unsurprised at the lack of vision and ambition for English waste policy that is reflected in the Government’s response”.
“We are an industry hungry for leadership from Government, but for now building our own cross-industry consensus on policy priorities must be paramount as we prepare for the General Election and also the possibility of fresh policy proposals from the EU Commission,” he said.
Dan Cooke, director of external affairs at Viridor, who gave evidence, said: “With the general election fast approaching, [the] response from government again fails to build on the positive progress made in recent years and to recognise the real contribution resource and waste energy can play at the heart of Britain’s green economy. Whilst recognition for the private sector’s innovation and multi-billion pound investment programme is welcome, the reality is that progress towards becoming one of Europe’s cleanest, greenest economies will continue to be restrained by a lack of policy leadership.”