Recommendations for an overhaul of waste policies put forward by a group of Conservatives have met support from within the industry, but also some scepticism as to whether they would be implemented in the near future.
Produced by the 2020 Conservatives Group, Sweating Our Assets argues for transferring waste responsibilities from Defra to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and introducing landfill bans on some materials.
It claimes that sales of remanufactured products could increase by a factor of 10 and £3bn could be saved from avoiding landfill costs.
Dan Cooke, director of external affairs for Viridor, said the report would be “hard for the Government to ignore”.
Adam Read, practice director, resource efficiency and waste management, at Ricardo-AEA, told MRW that, although such suggestions were not new, it was “positive” to see them endorsed by a group of Conservatives.
He said the industry would welcome transferring waste responsibilities to BIS, a move that Read described as a “fundamental change”.
“It would certainly make [waste issues] about reprocessing, remanufac-turing, closed-loop economy, resource scarcity and resource security,” he said.
“It has to be about business operations, profitability and productivity - and this is not a Defra agenda but a BIS one.”
Ray Georgeson, chief executive at the Resource Association, and Barry Dennis, director general at the Environmental Services Association, both supported such a shift.
Georgeson said he hoped the report became “a catalyst for change”, but stressed it “should not be a distraction from the urgent need to deliver policy improvements now”.
Read said it was hard to envisage Defra wanting to hand over waste responsibilities because, “without them, Defra would have very little to play with”.
At the launch of the report on 4 February, energy minister Greg Barker said it would be “very difficult” to move responsibility for waste but that it was “a very interesting idea”.
Laura Sandys MP, who led on the report, told MRW: “The opportunity for us to put recycling and remanufacturing on the map is very interesting. I think we can push this quite far down the line and get senior Government figures supporting the sector.”
She added that the next step for the group was to meet the chancellor in the coming months and make their case.
The 2020 Conservatives’ proposals for the waste sector are part of their vision to enhance the economy by focusing on profitability rather than GDP growth. This would include introducing profitability metrics such as ‘unit of waste remade’ or ‘unit of energy saved’.
It said that a Profitability Unit set up within BIS would help SMEs drive down costs and increase efficiency.
ReMade in Britain
The report called for a new ‘ReMade in Britain’ campaign, which would include remanufacturing, reprocessing or re-engineering businesses. This sector could grow to return an addition £5bn a year in profits for manufacturers, according to the 2020 Conservatives Group.
Paul Levett, an industry non-executive director, said the group correctly pointed out the “huge potential” for jobs and balance of payments offered by the initiative.
Mark Wilson, partner at Catalyst Corporate Finance, said the campaign would be “a bit of a brand focus around the reprocessing sector”. He added: “It would help [to put the] spotlight on businesses operating within that part of the resource supply chain, and should help drive investment funding towards them.”