Brexit is on everyone’s agenda. It will affect UK trade including refuse-derived fuel and recyclates. The Great Repeal Act will bring EU law into the UK for “consideration”, and the circular economy (CE) package could be adopted before we leave. In short, our relationship with the EU will continue to frame what we do.
But there is far more afoot than this. In England, Defra is producing 25-year frameworks for comment. We need to see those before getting into Article 50 business.
Wales is reviewing its strategy – as they should because it was set in 2011 – and Scotland wants a CE bill following its Making Things Last strategy in 2016. The National Infrastructure Commission gave priority to ‘solid waste’ in its 30-year look ahead, although not in the devolved administrations.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy launched a bio-economy strategy for comment in December and we eagerly await its industry strategy.
Taken together, these initiatives could add up to more than the resources strategy people like me have spent years calling for. They give us an opportunity to show that the future of resources is an economic/business continuity issue as well as a social/environmental one.
Much of this will take shape in 2017 so we must be ready to give our input.
That’s just for starters. The British Standards Institution is consulting on a CE standard, and packaging targets are being reviewed, as is the Scrap Metals Dealers Act.
Then there is the chief scientific officer’s report From Waste to Resource, due to be published as MRW went to press. Each year Sir Mark Walport gets to identify and report on a topic especially important to UK policy-making, and this year he has chosen waste and resources.
His report has a dozen separately authored chapters: the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management drafted one while WRAP, the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee, the Institution of Civil Engineers and others have too.
We don’t yet know Sir Mark’s conclusions but we do know his audience: policy-makers and decision-makers inside Whitehall. We have seen hints about its contents, including a focus on direct charging for household waste, but for now we must wait.
The report is important for three reasons: its target audience, its sources and the fact that Sir Mark has spotted waste and resource management as a key strategic issue, regardless of the Brexit outcome.
Our industry needs to promote this report and I expect to see full coverage of it in MRW next month.
So, is Brexit the only game in town? Obviously, it is really important, but there are other moves underway which could be just as vital and we must be ready to be heard.
Steve Lee is chief executive of Resources & Waste UK and writing in his capacity as an RWM Ambassador