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2013 Review - Phil Conran

The abiding memory of 2013 has to be Dan Rogerson’s letter to the waste industry. Sad as it may seem, this seemed to depressingly epitomise the Government’s reluctance to engage in the whole environmental debate, a position exacerbated by the rest of the UK’s positive and proactive stance in relation to 2015 and the demands of the Waste Framework Directive.

The year started with a long shopping list of legislative and strategic expectations; The Waste Prevention Plan, Duty of Care Code of Practice, TEEP Guidance, WEEE Regulations, technical optimisation of producer responsibility, re-alignment of packaging targets, Waste Transfer note consultation, MRF Code of Practice.

None of it was particularly difficult, they all just needed resources. And in the end, it seems the only thing of consequence that has been delivered has been the WEEE Regulations by BIS. So what has actually come out of Defra that has had a positive impact on waste over the last 11 months?

The Waste Management Plan and the Waste Prevention Plan have both been widely derided as lacking in ambition and content and, combined with the announcement of some brutal cuts to the Environment Agency, it is hard to see that the waste landscape in England can do anything but deteriorate over the next 12 months.

On a positive note, it is good to see that Defra has accepted the recommendations to adjust the packaging regulations glass targets although we have yet to see the promised consultation. And a lot of excellent work went into producing a range of technical changes to apply more cohesion across producer responsibility as a whole – but again, that seems to have now fallen by the wayside.

On a more strategic note, the Circular Economy has become the latest strap line for green credential display with growing demand for leadership from Government on creating the framework that can help it progress. It is difficult to see where this will go, but the debate has highlighted the fundamental disconnect between the various silos of policy and legislation.

Trying to create a less throw-away society within a waste and recycling orientated legislative framework will be tricky, but without recognition by policy makers and the regulators of the need for change, it is difficult to see the Circular Economy having much impact on the waste industry.

All in all then, a year where England seems to have been routed into a siding whilst Scotland and Wales appear to be on express trains gathering speed. Will 2014 see the English Express chugging out of the yard with a new coat of paint or will it quietly expire in the rest home for terminally ill locomotives?

Phil Conran, director, 360 Environmental

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