Slowly but surely, the Government is drawing up its long-term plans for resources and waste management. And, for once, the sector is in on the ground floor.
In the previous issue of MRW, we focused on the Clean Growth Strategy (CGS) and National Infrastructure Assessment. We now have a white paper on the Industrial Strategy, following a green paper published earlier in 2017. The strategy, launched by business secretary Greg Clark, said that achieving clean growth in the economy was one of four “grand challenges”.
A series of deals with UK sectors, where the Government and industry collaborate to increase productivity, are also to be launched. Environmental Services Association (ESA) chair Stewart Davies said talks were underway for a deal for resource productivity and that a sector deal working group had been set up with Beis.
The Industrial Strategy made mention of the resources and waste strategy, scheduled to be published next year, and said it would look at boosting the market for secondary materials.
It also set a target of a 20% per capita reduction in food waste through working with the Courtauld Commitment, and reiterated a pledge to achieve “zero avoidable waste” by 2050.
And it said the Government was “committed to moving towards a more circular economy (CE)”. This will involve raising productivity by using resources more efficiently. As successive Defra ministers have shied away from the CE term, this was a surprising addition.
Other pledges include examining options on WEEE tracking and to “improve the efficiency of enforcement”.
Reaction to the strategy has been cautiously positive, and the resources industry is at last wielding influence with ministers and civil servants. Speaking at the annual ESA lunch in London on 24 November, Davies said: “We have been finding our way into Beis to make the case for the sector and engage proactively with the industrial strategy as it is formulated, funded and rolled out.
“We have participated in discussions at ministerial level in Beis, and advised that all sector deals should have reference to resource efficiency and productivity.
“The very latest Beis feedback is that it is interested in the proposed sector deal and what we can do if supported by stronger end markets for secondary resources. We are now pursuing this with the chemicals sector.
“If successful, this will have our sector recognised by Beis as well as Defra as willing and able to play a proactive role in shaping the UK’s industrial strategy to add more value and further reduce environmental impact through innovation and investment.”
Unlike the CGS, the Industrial Strategy will be monitored by an independent body to hold the Government to account and chart progress. It is also being backed by a £725m fund for innovation,along with an increase in research and development investment.
In addition, it outlined plans to oversee £20bn of investment in “innovative and high potential businesses”, including establishing a new £2.5bn investment fund within the British Business Bank.
Ray Georgeson, chief executive, Resource Association: “The Industrial Strategy sets out some important criteria for successful sector deals, including strong elements of unity, leadership and inclusiveness from sectors seeking to establish such deals.”
Colin Church, chief executive, CIWM: “Better planning for waste and waste-derived resources around the country, especially to provide sufficient capacity of the right kind in the right place to support local economic development, is a key ask.”
Charlotte Morton, chief executive, Anaerobic Digestion & Bioresources Association: “We are encouraged to hear that the Government will increase incentives for investment in sustainable agriculture to help grow markets for innovative technologies and techniques. AD is clearly one such technology, so we look forward to further details on this support.”
Jacob Hayler, executive director, Environmental Services Association: “Strengthening markets for secondary materials and encouraging design for recyclability are imperative if we are to move to a circular economy, and we welcome the Government’s commitment to this.”