Chancellor Philip Hammond has unveiled £30m extra funding for the Environment Agency (EA) to tackle waste crime in his Budget statement.
As previously announced, he also outlined plans to consult on a tax on single-use plastic items such as takeaway carriers, and confirmed that illegal waste sites would be liable for landfill tax from 1 April 2018.
The Landfill Communities Fund for 2018-19 has been set at £33.9m and the cap on contributions by landfill operators set at 5.3%. A freeze on the aggregates levy at £2 per tonne was set for 2018-19, but it will become index linked at a later date.
Chartered Institution of Wastes Management chief executive Colin Church said: “By its own recent admission, the EA is struggling to keep up with the number of illegal waste sites that are springing up and this additional funding is much needed.”
On the proposed single-use plastic tax, Church said: “With the tide of public opinion turning because of issues such as marine plastic pollution, it is encouraging to see that the Government is willing to act.”
Environmental Services Association executive director Jacob Hayler said: “The chancellor has listened to the industry’s calls to toughen the fight against waste crime, and the extra £30m funding provided to the EA to help stamp out illegal activity in the sector is highly welcome.”
But some industry figures were critical of what was left out of the Budget.
FCC Environment chief executive Paul Taylor said: “If we are to make the UK one of the most resource-productive countries in the world, we would have liked to see more ambitious policy announcements.
”It is disappointing, for example, that we did not see reference to incentivising reuse, which would underline our push towards UK self-sufficiency. Embedding a ‘reuse culture’ within communities is absolutely essential if we are to encourage behavioural change in relation to waste.
“We would also liked to have a seen a commitment by the Government to invest in the UK’s domestic waste infrastructure.”
Richard Kirkman, chief technology and innovation officer at Veolia, said: “We support any initiative that encourages more recycling; however, the real value will be realised if the tax revenue is spent on finding new solutions to tackle these ‘single use’ products.
“As a nation, we need to recognise the importance of recycling plastic to help reduce the amount of waste going to landfill or ending up in our oceans. After all, we fail to recycle almost half of the plastics bottles we use.
“Therefore, we believe there needs to be a clear distinction between what is and isn’t ‘single use’ plastic, to help people make informed decisions. Clear labelling is key. For example, plastic bottles are not ‘single use’ if they’re recycled, whereas straws, takeaway food trays and plastic cutlery often cannot be used again.”
Mary Creagh MP, chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, said: “The Government has finally woken up to the tide of plastic choking our countryside, rivers and marine life.
“The chancellor’s promise to start a consultation on single-use plastics charges next year is welcome, but does nothing to tackle the rising tide of plastic in our oceans now.”
Budget 2017 statements on waste and resources
Reducing plastics waste – The Government will launch a call for evidence in 2018 seeking views on how the tax system or charges could reduce the amount of single-use plastics waste, building on the success of the existing plastic carrier bag charge.
Tackling waste crime – From 1 April 2018, operators of illegal waste sites will become liable for landfill tax, and those who continue to flout the rules will face tough civil and criminal sanctions. This follows a positive response to the consultation announced at the Spring Budget.
In addition, the Government is providing £30m extra funding over the next four years to help the Environment Agency tackle waste crime and reduce the harm caused to the environment and to legitimate operators.
Landfill Communities Fund – The Government will set the Landfill Communities Fund for 2018-19 at £33.9m, in accordance with the announcement in the spring that the cap on contributions by landfill operators would be set at 5.3%.
Aggregates Levy – The Government will freeze rates for 2018-19 at £2 per tonne but will return to index-linking the levy in the longer term. Following consultation, the Government has decided against introducing an exemption from the levy for aggregates extracted when laying underground utility pipes.