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Government lacks ‘strategic plan’ on circular economy

The Government is not providing leadership to support the transition to the circular economy, the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has said after conducting an inquiry into the matter.

In its report Growing a Circular Economy: Ending the throwaway society, EAC MPs said business was taking the lead on conceiving and implementing circular models to respond to higher resource prices and insecurity.

It believes that Government should increase support available for it and for WRAP, as well as stepping-up its own initiatives.

“However, instead of scaling up this work, it is cutting back,” said the committee.  “The picture painted in our inquiry is of a catalogue of small-scale Government initiatives and support rather than a strategic plan to achieve systemic change, clearly linked to industrial policy.”

It added that the creation of a steering group on the bioeconomy was not sufficient and backed calls for the setting up of an Office for Resource Management, which could oversee resource policy across departments.

The EAC heard from a range of experts and prominent figures in the resource sector, including business representatives, the resource minister Dan Rogerson and the European environment commissioner Janez Potoċnik.

Based on the evidence it collected during the inquiry the EAC put forward a series of policy and fiscal recommendations.

The Government should have differential VAT rates based on life-cycle analysis of the environmental impact or recycled content of products, it suggested.

400_Joan-Walley

EAC chair Joan Walley, left, said: “We heard from business how successful green taxes such as the landfill tax had been in driving change in the waste industry.  We need the same strong tax signals from the Treasury for the circular economy”.

The Government should also review the current producer responsibility regime and introduce within the Packaging Recovery Note system an ‘offset’ or lower charges for products that have higher recycled content.

Another recommendation was to homogenise waste collections across local authorities.

“Local authorities need to tailor their household recycling services to local needs, but the Government should give clear guidance that directs local authorities in England towards a more standardised approach,” said the committee.

Such an approach would include “separation systems” for recyclable materials, separate food waste collections and a ban on food waste to landfill.

Other proposals put forward by the committee included:

  • making the electronic duty of care mandatory,
  • establishing eco-design standards across a range of products,
  • removing trade barriers for remanufactured goods, and
  • introducing targets for resource productivity.

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