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Recycling means recycling

The reshaping of British politics and public policy continues apace, and we are all getting used to the new prime minister’s mantra ”Brexit means Brexit”.

We can all have fun with the motto if we choose to, but the uncharted territory the UK is heading for still imposes a duty on our industry to engage constructively and ensure that our concerns are articulated with evidence, while any opportunities we may identify are genuine.

These concerns will include the UK’s future relationship with the EU single market, the maintenance of environmental protection standards and waste exports legislation.

We also need a framework that supports high-quality recycling as part of a continuing positive journey towards a more circular economy (CE), which has to include further action to reduce recyclate contamination and clarity about what really constitutes recycling for measurement and target setting. This is a scenario in which recycling really means recycling: at the point of reprocessing not collection.

The onus falls on us to articulate our vision more clearly and more collaboratively across our industry

The opportunities may well include that very CE we aspire to.

Regardless of whether the UK is part of the EU or not, the imperative to reduce resource use and maximise the economic, social and environmental potential of the CE should remain just that – an imperative that the Government would do well to embrace positively. It needs to see the long-term merit in including our vision for the industry in its evolving thinking about a new ‘industrial strategy’ for the post-Brexit UK.

To do this, the onus falls on us to articulate that vision more clearly and more collaboratively.

While the psychological barrier that the uncertainty behind Brexit represents is real for many who did not support Brexit, we must overcome it by focusing hard on the future contribution of our industry, and start ourselves to shape a long-term framework for waste and resources that the Government can pick up and support us in delivering.

Perhaps it really is time to take back control.

Ray Georgeson is chief executive of the Resource Association

Readers' comments (1)

  • Whilst I support the principle of Ray's argument - that we should not take our foot off the pedal, let alone apply the brakes to what little environmental ambition we have in England, I am not convinced that 'recycling DOES necessarily mean recycling'. Surely recycling should mean resource efficiency. What is the point of a recycling target that has no environmental benefit? What is the point of minimisation in one area that leads to waste growth in another? For instance, there is an optimum position with food packaging.Too little or packaging designed for the wrong reason - recycling, for instance - could lead to even greater wastage than we have already. Whilst the Circular Economy Package has its merits, it is far from perfect and in many areas, seems more designed to fit with other member states high cost systems that resource efficiency. Brexit should give us the opportunity to consider what outcomes we want rather than that the process, a point that the Minister was keen to stress to the EAC. This should not be an excuse to abandon ambition or bury our heads in the sand. But it should be seen as an opportunity to break away from the quantitive target mantra and think about where we want to be by 2030 in terms of resource use, secondary resource management and environmental cost distribution.

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