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Industry disappointment at 'missed opportunity' of waste review

“Toothless”, “disappointing” and a “missed opportunity” were some of the initial reactions from the waste and recycling industry to the Government’s Waste Review, published today.

After a year of consultation, the overall feeling was that the review lacked strong direction. Waste management company Shanks called on the Government to be “more assertive” if serious about making a zero waste economy a reality. It welcomed the Government’s efforts to “reaffirm the principles of the waste hierarchy” but felt the Waste Review lacked “bite”.

Shanks chief executive Tom Drury said: “We feared the Review would be heavy on ambition and light on action, and unfortunately we were right. By not introducing new regulation to ensure compliance and not shortening timescales to encourage pace of change, it is unlikely to deliver the environmental and economic outcomes required to achieve the zero-waste target.”

Sita UK chief executive David Palmer Jones commented that the review was “very strong on the narrative but less strong on targets”. He said: “We wanted a stronger direction from Government. There is nothing wrong with the sentiment at all - it is now quite clear in their minds that waste is a valuable resource and that zero waste is important in terms of growth in the economy. But they’ve missed the opportunity to put it into action.

“The private sector has got the money to invest in the secondary raw materials industry and would like to do that. But there isn’t clear targeting providing a way to do that. We have this 15% renewable energy target, so we were looking at how this would be pushed down to a local level. It’s not just about having a policy on paper - we need delivery too.”

A need for delivery was echoed by others, including Environmental Services Association director of policy Matthew Farrow, who said ESA supported the aims of the review but that “it must translate into a framework that enables the industry to invest in the waste facilities needed”. Specifically, ESA wants to see robust National Planning Policy Guidance, clear evidence from Defra that landfill bans will improve environmental outcomes and give the industry sufficient lead time, more on product policy to ensure products are recyclable, and proper resourcing for the tougher stance on waste crime outlined.

The British Metals Recycling Association welcomed this increased focus on enforcement of unlicensed and illegal waste sites, and plans to reduce the burden of compliance on legitimate businesses, points it had raised during the consultation process. It was also disappointed with the review and wanted more solid policies, though it “welcomed many of the initiatives in the review and the fact that the Government has taken on board industry comments during the consultation”.

Director general Ian Hetherington said: “We would have liked to have seen more flesh on the bones of the Government’s proposals after a year of work.”

He also welcomed the support for energy from waste programmes but added: “We are extremely disappointed that thinking on energy from waste has not been further developed and the opportunity for leadership on this issue has not been seized.”

Meanwhile, Covanta UK managing director Malcolm Chilton welcomed the review’s recognition that EfW had an important role to play and Government’s commitment to promoting the benefits to EfW and removing barriers to its development.

While ECO Plastics managing director Jonathan Short said the review was only worthy of a bronze medal.  He commented: “Enforcing a return to weekly refuse collection would undoubtedly have hurt the nation’s recycling industry and we applaud Defra for listening to the views of local authorities on the matter. However, for all the headlines they generate, the introduction of recycling incentive schemes will not deliver material progress for our industry and does not offer a long-term, sustainable solution to the issue of waste management.

“We need clarity rather than reward; clear and consistent messaging on what to recycle and how to do it.  The emphasis must now be on quality and not quantity.  By capturing the highest quality resource – in the case of plastics, that’s the bottles – we can fuel the growth of a new and vibrant industry that delivers jobs and economic value to the UK.”

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