The Government’s resources and waste strategy’s vision for England will need to fit in with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
There are a number of policies proposed in the strategy which are based on consistency. While that might be a welcome move for local authorities in England, unless there is proper collaboration with the devolved administrations then it will not make things easier for companies with cross-border waste operations if different regimes continue to operate across the UK.
An example is deposit return schemes. The preference is to have a UK-wide approach, but how will that fit in with the Scottish scheme which has already been consulted on and is in the process of being considered for introduction well in advance of the 2023 date under the English strategy?
And regarding consistency on collections of dry recyclables: will there be any consideration of what is in place already in other parts of the UK? In Scotland, with its recycling charter, steps are being taken to create consistency but that has not yet occurred across the board.
The strategy includes long-term thinking. There is consideration that if the measures to be imposed in the short-term are not as effective as required, then further, more stringent, measures will be implemented, including a biodegradable municipal waste to landfill ban (similar to that to be introduced in Scotland in 2021) and a tax on incineration.
There is acknowledgement that further investment in alternative infrastructure such as energy from waste is imperative. Whether the impact of the Scottish landfill ban is taken into account is unclear, but it is likely to be more critical for there to be alternative infrastructure if both England and Scotland are actively seeking to reduce reliance on landfill in the short to medium term.
The plan to overhaul the use of exemptions from waste management in order to prevent abuse by waste criminals will be welcome. However, similarly to the discussions of this nature in Scotland in the past couple of years, this needs to be done in a sensible fashion so as not to overburden lower-risk activities which represent a legitimate use of waste materials in line with the circular economy (such as the restoration of quarries).
The position in Scotland remains unclear and requires action by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency.