“An early Christmas present” is how many people in the waste and resources sector referred to the strategy once it was finally published – a mere three days before Parliament recess but, in all fairness, within the promised deadline of “the end of the year”.
For those of us at Policy Connect, FCC Environment, MRW and Valpak, there was an additional reason to welcome the release with open arms: we had spent the last quarter of 2018 planning to gather some of the most prominent voices in the sector to discuss and debate a document that, little did we know, would actually reflect a lot of what the consulted experts had told Defra throughout the year.
But to what extent? The strategy is remarkable in the sense that it provides, as promised, a much-needed framework for those who operate in the resource and waste sector. So far so good, but a framework is not a roadmap and, as many of the round table participants pointed out, there is a big risk that the strategy’s vision will not materialise if the yet-to-be launched consultations end up shaping an action plan that delivers a watered down version of the document.
The lack of urgency, the issue of funding and the general sense of lacking a clear direction of travel were some of the questions posed both at the round table and, later that same day, to environment secretary Michael Gove when he appeared before the Environmental Audit Committee. A lot more has to be unveiled in 2019, but no-one in the industry can doubt it: this will be one of the most transformative years yet.
Julieta Cuneo is sustainability manager at Policy Connect