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Gove lays down gauntlet for resources sector

Corin Williams

The UK’s waste and recycling sector is ready to rise to the challenges laid down by the resources and waste strategy.

This was the clear message given to me by the speakers at an MRW roundtable event held at Portcullis House just a day after the strategy was launched.

The event was supported by FCC, Valpak and the All Party Parliamentary Sustainable Resource Group. It was held even before the Environment Audit Committee had a chance to grill environment secretary Michael Gove that same day.

Around the table we had representatives from every corner of the industry – including Local Government Association environment committee chairman Martin Tett, Bywaters’ John Glover, Inpen’s Paul Vanston and Barry Sheerman MP. Defra representatives were also on hand to give vital background to the strategy.

Initial reaction from the industry as a whole has been glowing, partly due to the fact that Defra seems to have listened to the full range of industry concerns. This is sweet relief after the total lack of policy development since the coalition Government decided to “step back”.

As a result, arguments for food waste collections, the role of energy from waste, extended producer responsibility and action on waste crime have been rehearsed by the sector for many years now.

Interestingly, the roundtable often focused on the need for ‘civic pride’ in recycling. As the strategy outlines, unless the general public is on board for whatever system we end up with.

But it is also clear there is consternation over the fact that many policies will only come into effect in 2023.

Indeed, there was anger from some quarters over delays to setting up a proper system to track waste, with the comment “we can’t wait another five years”.

Also lacking from the strategy was a proper consideration of how Defra policy will conjoin with Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The main point is that the strategy does not give enough detail for industry to make decisions on investments. It is only after various consultations have been concluded that firm plans will be put on the table.

A number of these consultations, we have been told, will be launched in early January and conclude before the Brexit date.

It is now up to us to pick up the gauntlet and continue to make the case for building a modern infrastructure to deal with the UK’s resources.

  • A full write up of the roundtable will be published in MRW

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