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Inaction on resource security berated by MPs

Ministers have been accused of having their “heads in the sand” in refusing to do more to combat the waste of valuable resources, including food.


The criticism has come from Joan Walley MP, left, chair of the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC), following the Government’s formal response to the committee’s paper in July: ‘Ending the Throwaway Society: Growing a Circular Economy’.

The reaction comes days after the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee warned ministers they must play a greater role to inject impetus into England’s stalling recycling rates.

EAC recommendations included calls for lower VAT on recycled products, a requirement for new products to be recyclable and greater standardisation of waste collection services, including a ban on food waste being sent to landfill.

Walley said:
“The disposable society simply isn’t sustainable in the 21st century. Innovative companies in the UK, like B&Q and M&S, recognise this and are already demonstrating that using resources less wastefully is the future of business.

“Yet our Government seems to have its head in the sand and is refusing to take basic steps to reduce the amount of food and resources we waste.”

In its response the Government says:

  • it has no plans to introduce greater standardisation in collection systems or compel councils to adopt household food waste collections
  • differential VAT rates are too difficult to negotiate at EU level
  • it sees no “necessity at this stage” for tax allowance changes
  • It has “No plans to require the recyclability of all products coming onto the market

The Government argues that because VAT is governed by European law, any reliefs from VAT are strictly limited and there are no specific provisions that allow for actions to encourage the use of recyclable materials.

Walley replied: “If the Government is unable to introduce differential VAT rates on recycled products under existing arrangements, ministers should make the case for a change in the rules at an EU level as part of the discussions due to take place on the Commission’s Circular Economy proposals.”

She added: “We need the Government to create a framework where companies and consumers are rewarded for doing the right thing.

“The tax system should be used to incentivise products that are designed to have a lower environmental impact and support greater repair and re-use. Materials and products that cannot be recycled should be phased out altogether.”

Ray Georgeson Resource Association

Ray Georgeson, chief executive of the Resource Association, left, said the group had commended the EAC for its report and analysis and shared its disappointment at the response from the Government.

“What is clear from the directness of the Government response is how little appetite their appears to be for vital policy changes needed to accelerate the circular economy and end the throwaway society - but we knew this already.

“Like many other stakeholders in the waste and resources sector, we find this exasperating, as the potential for genuine waste reduction, resource efficiency and green growth with the carbon and jobs benefits that will accrue is still lower on the policy radar than we and many others would wish.”

Readers' comments (1)

  • It's not that the Government are not doing some useful things - they are eg some of the programmes being managed by WRAP. The charge is that the scale and timing of their actions are not in line with the size of the problem or the opportunity. They say they want business to take the lead but won't create the market incentives or long term confidence needed to make that work.

    I can't see any of this changing with the fault lines within the current coalition or much chance of these being resolved in May next year.

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