The arrival of the first set of data from the new MRF sampling regime has been welcome, although it was disappointing that neither Defra nor WRAP chose not to give much publicity to a significant initiative to improve the quality of secondary materials being processed.
Perhaps it was because of the low number of MRFs registered with the Environment Agency to date. The task for the agency is to get that number up - and a lack of fanfare from those responsible won’t help.
Once again regulation is under review, with the Government’s Cutting Red Tape initiative replacing the coalition’s Red Tape Challenge. The waste industry is in the first tranche of sectors under scrutiny. Defra, which says it has delivered more than 650 regulatory reforms during the past three years, is now being charged to deliver more. As ever, it is our view that bad regulation should go while good regulation should stay - and be enforced properly. Calling it all ‘red tape’ does not help reasoned judgements.
I hear that new resource minister Rory Stewart is taking a keen interest in the policies that are driving greater resource efficiency in Wales and Scotland during his ‘listening and learning’ meetings with stakeholders. It seems that the minister’s note-taking accelerates when initiatives in the two nations are being described.
It would be remarkable if Stewart got to a position where he wanted policies across the borders to be adopted in England. For that to happen, he will have to remain in post longer than has been typical in recent years - and exhibit an ability to be extremely persuasive with colleagues and Whitehall officials alike.
Without that centrist approach in England, the industry will just have to get on with it, which is why it was interesting to see FCC Environment joining the Resource Association. A reprocessing body might not be an obvious ally for a company that is such a big presence in the landfill and energy from waste sectors. But both agree the over-arching issue has to be one of quality, and therefore the balance between recycling and recovery is a continuing conversation.
In a political climate where voluntary agreements and business-led initiatives are more likely than greater regulation, partnerships such as these will be needed to help the UK to become more resource efficient.