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Industry calls for swift direction from Government after EU exit

The industry has called for swift direction from Government after the UK voted to leave the European Union.

After 52% of voters chose to leave and prime minister David Cameron’s subsequent announcement he will step down, the Environmental Services Association (ESA) executive director Jacob Hayler said the result will “extend and intensify the uncertainty around our industry”.

He said it was now vital for the sector to step up its lobbying efforts as he feared waste and recycling policy could be “at the bottom of the Government’s in-tray”.

Hayler said: “Once the dust settles it will be absolutely critical for investment in our industry that the Government acts quickly to set out the terms of a UK exit and what it means for the waste sector.

“Regardless of our membership of the EU, there is huge scope for the waste and recycling sector to do things better and for the UK to improve its resource efficiency.

“The public’s vote has been cast and, while there may be threats, we must turn it into an opportunity and press the Government for the long-term framework that the waste and recycling industry now needs more than ever.”

Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM) chief executive Steve Lee said the result was not what most CIWM members wanted.

He said: “More than ever now, we need forward looking strategies across the UK to support investment and performance in this sector.”

As chief executive of Resources & Waste UK, Lee said his organisation would be calling for an early meeting with Government to discuss their plans for the industry.

Suez chief executive David Palmer-Jones said there was a risk of a void for national waste policy while the UK renegotiates its relationship with the EU.

Barry Dennis, chair of the RWM Ambassadors Group, also called on the industry to engage with policy makers.

“For a stronger and more sustainable future for our sector, we will need to lead strategically and develop solutions as opposed to waiting for steer from existing legislation.

“We will not have all the answers in the next few weeks or months. Instead, it will take many years and fierce determination for us to achieve our aspirations for a circular economy, a greener environment and sustainable existence.

“As chair of the RWM Ambassadors Group, I promise you that we will be doing everything in our power to drive forward the resource management agenda.”

Anaerobic digestion firm ReFood reacted less negatively, describing the result as a “momentus opportunity for the UK government to affirm its commitment to tackling food waste”.

Commercial director Philip Simpson said: “Let’s use Brexit as a springboard for introducing a total ban on food waste to landfill in England.

“Free from the shackles of EU red-tape, Defra has a critical role to play in setting such targets and can help Britain to implement waste management laws at a far greater speed – tailored with the country’s needs firmly in mind.”

The Local Government Association (LGA) said councils must be involved in the decision making process of the UK’s exit.

“EU laws and regulations impact on many council services, such as waste, employment, health and safety, consumer protection and trading and environmental standards,” it said in a statement.

“There cannot be an assumption that power over these services is simply transferred from Brussels to Westminster.”

It also called for the government to guarantee it will protect £5.3bn of EU regeneration funding up to 2020 for English communities.

The Association for Public Service Excellence chief executive Paul O’Brien said: “The British people have voted for change, however we must not allow the results of the referendum to bring a further assault on local government finances.

“The ship is only just steadying from years of austerity budgets and now is not the time to crush the progress that local councils are making in bringing about stable local government services.”

The Bureau of International Recycling (BIR) expressed concern about the decision.

Ranjit Baxi, BIR president, said: “The decision of the people of the United Kingdom to leave the EU will undoubtedly have a deep impact on trade in the European Union and internationally and the economic and political consequences of this vote cannot be fully assessed at this moment in time.

“We need to continue working together to promote free and fair trade globally while strengthening our diversity and reducing legislative and bureaucratic burdens on businesses.”

Ray Georgeson, Resource Association chief executive:

2000 ray georgeson

2000 ray georgeson

“The decision the people have made to leave the European Union will create uncertainties for many industries including our own. We made this clear during the referendum campaign but recognise that the public have made a decision about the UK’s future in the EU.

“We must continue to advocate the power and value of the circular economy and ensure that our concerns about policy uncertainty are addressed.

“We will be looking for clear signals and reassurances from the Government that they recognise the potential and value of our industries and that they commit to a more resource efficient future, regardless of our future status in Europe.”


Philip Simpson, ReFood commercial director:

Philip simpson re food

Philip simpson re food

“Although unexpected by many critics, this decision represents a momentous opportunity for the UK government to affirm its commitment to tackling food waste.

“Perhaps the most exciting aspect of Brexit is that the British government now has the autonomy to set its own waste recycling targets.

“Previously, all UK legislation was voluntary, with Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland choosing to introduce laws that made the separation and recycling of food waste mandatory. England, however, left it to individual local authorities to implement their own initiatives.

“This saw widespread disparity in commitment to food waste recycling, with many local authorities choosing not to get provide collection services for homeowners or businesses.

“Unfortunately, this is a short-sighted approach and fails to capitalise on the significant economic and sustainable benefits of food waste recycling.

“So, let’s use Brexit as a springboard for introducing a total ban on food waste to landfill in England. Free from the shackles of EU red-tape, Defra has a critical role to play in setting such targets and can help Britain to implement waste management laws at a far greater speed – tailored with the country’s needs firmly in mind.

“What’s more, it has been estimated that Britain’s membership of the EU costs upwards of £350m per week. With those savings alone, an exit from the EU could see increases in funding for Britain’s sustainability industry – including food waste management schemes.

“While there is a long road ahead, the Brexit vote is a huge moment for the UK’s waste management sector. Looking ahead, it’s important that we continue to work towards not only achieving, but exceeding, the sustainability targets originally laid-out by the EU.

“The sector has a pivotal role to play in Britain’s post-Brexit landscape, and I hope to see us grab this opportunity with both hands.”


Alan Wheeler, Textile Recycling Association director:

“The European Union trading block is vital to our industry, with large quantities of used clothing being freely traded within the 28 member states.

“It is inevitable that this surprise result will cause a great deal of uncertainty going forward and until we know what the terms of agreements we secure going forward it is impossible to predict what will happen.

“Added into that, the EU has negotiated many trade agreements with countries and trading blocks in other parts of the world and it is through such agreements that the UK is able to export many goods. Currently BIS delegate all their trade responsibilities to DG trade.

“This is now going to have to change and UK is going to have to negotiate their own trade deals which could take years.

“By 5 am this morning we have seen the Pound drop by around 10% overnight to a low of $1.35 which has not been seen since 1985. Who knows when it will stop falling or what the ramifications of this will be on the economy.

“One thing is certain, where we had some clarity before the referendum, the situation this morning is anything but clear”.


Steve Lee, CIWM chief executive:

2016 steve lee

2016 steve lee

“The decision for the UK to leave the EU is not what most CIWM members, or many environment sector professionals, have said they wanted.

“While it was conspicuously absent from the respective referendum campaigns, there is no hiding from the fact that EU membership has been a strong positive force for the quality of our environment and the associated benefits for our health, wellbeing, jobs, skills, growth and general sustainability.

“Stepping out of the EU brings financial, policy, legal and performance uncertainty which may well threaten a slow-down or reversal of the improvements we have enjoyed in recent years.

“As sustainable resources and waste management professionals, as an institution, and as an industry we must now work together to build on what has been achieved to date.

“This will require leadership, determination and an industry ready to work with governments – of whatever flavour – to protect what we have and to drive for further improvement.

“More than ever now, we need forward looking strategies across the UK to support investment and performance in this sector.”

David Palmer-Jones, Suez chief executive:

David Palmer-Jones

586 David Palmer-Jones

“Suez respects the democratic will of the people and our focus remains with our policy of deriving the maximum value and energy from the waste Britain’s households and businesses produce every day.

“While the UK renegotiates its EU membership for the years ahead there is a risk of a void at a national policy level.

“As we transition to a more resource efficient economy, something to which all UK devolved administrations aspire, the waste and resources sector continues to seek vision and leadership from Whitehall.

“EU membership for Britain has been a crucial and effective driver of environmental policy and legislation which has seen the United Kingdom transform from being the ‘dirty man of Europe’ to a solid environmental performer.

“Our industry has a very clear vision and understanding of what needs to be done to ensure that we continue to make environmental improvements with or without EU membership.

“The environmental services industry stands ready to maintain its work with UK policy-makers to ensure that we have a positive future in front of us, and that we build on the environmental gains achieved over the last two decades.

“We will be working closely with each local authority and with all businesses where policy commitment remains high in turning our waste into a resource.”

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