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Recycling minister calls further commercial waste regulation “unlikely”

Environment minister Lord Henley has described further regulation of commercial waste as “unlikely” during a fact-finding visit to recycling facilities in North London.

During his visit, Lord Henley told MRW: “One should never rule anything out before a review, but I and the rest of the Coalition Government are naturally against regulation where possible, so I think it is unlikely we will want to go down the regulatory route.”

However, Henley added “it might be there are some small bits and pieces that one could do that might be effective, I’m not ruling anything in or out, but the broad theme has to be a deregulatory approach if possible.”

Instead of further legal regulation, the minister recently announced the Government’s intention to introduce Courtauld style voluntary agreements to encourage businesses to recycle more of their waste.

Henley told MRW: “Businesses are often very good at coming to voluntary deals, particularly if they think that if they don’t there might be a stick coming along later on, but again, in the main things work better if people are happy about doing them, and doing them because they see a value in it.”

He added: “It’s not just corporate social responsibility that will drive a business to do the things of this sort, it’s also the bottom line – if it can save itself money or packaging or later on, on disposal of rubbish, it is in the interest of the business to do so.”

Lord Henley toured a number of recycling sites on his visit, including the Green-Works facility in Wembley – a re-use and recycling initiative for redundant commercial office furniture. 

However Green-Works chief executive Colin Crooks told MRW that more was required from the Government in terms of commercial waste: “We’ve focused now for 20 years on municipal waste, it’s a tiny proportion of the market, a tiny proportion of the volume of waste being produced and in general, it’s not especially hazardous, but it’s very expensive to collect, and I’ve been saying for nearly 25 years, we should really have some sort of targets and measures to maximise recycling of commercial waste.”

Crooks added: “To get a shareholder business to really put significant effort into doing something different that might cost a bit of money and effort, you have to have a commercial stimulus and I think the supermarkets had that. I can’t see where that connection is for a commercial business whose waste stream is not so high profile.”

Lord Henley also toured the Envac automated waste collection system – an underground vacuum technology currently being installed by Quintain developments at Wembley city, a technology which he hoped would be more deeply considered by the waste review.

Henley told MRW: “I hope that we in Government in our current waste review will look at ways in which this sort of waste collection can be encouraged, obviously at this stage I can’t make any promises, as it’s part of the review, but this is exciting stuff.”

The news was welcomed by Envac managing director Julian Gaylor, who told MRW: “Our next objective is to explore potential funding mechanisms. From the Coalition, we would like to see some suggestions on how to help with trying to get local authorities and waste companies to the table to invest in this.”

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