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Coffey reveals details on resources and waste strategy

Defra’s resources and waste strategy, which is in its final stages, will include “significant” reform of packaging regulations in order to boost the market for a wide range of secondary materials.

Speaking at a hearing of the Environment Audit Committee (EAC) session on 12 September, resources minister Therese Coffey outlined some of the expected measures in the strategy.

She said it would be published before the end of the year, but after the chancellor’s Budget statement in November. This is because it will contain financial measures which the chancellor will announce.

Sources close to Defra have said a series of consultations will be launched following the strategy’s publication, but not concurrently.

It is understood that a draft strategy is soon to be distributed across Whitehall departments for comments, with the Treasury getting ‘first bite’.

Coffey said the strategy was not yet “done and dusted” but it was “in its final stages”.

“I think that if we can get it out by the end of November, that will be a good outcome,” she told the committee. “It is a pretty comprehensive strategy, and I think one that’s worth waiting for.”

She added: “The benefit of what we’re trying to do with packaging recovery note (PRN) reform is to stimulate the secondary market, which will help councils in the consideration of what they do with waste.

“At the moment the secondary market only really works for PET.

“Our intention is the outcome of our policy will be that the secondary market for more materials will actually become a lot more in a council’s interest to want to do that.”

The committee heard that councils could sell more material directly themselves and “cut out the middle men”. 

Coffey also indicated that there was a “sufficient capacity” of UK energy-from-waste facilities.

She said the EU Commission is concerned there is too much incineration across the EU, and that the UK’s approach is consistent with this view, with the move to remove energy recovery from inclusion in recycling targets.

Speaking at the RWM industry show on 13 September, EAC chair Mary Creagh said a key Brexit agreement with the EU was scheduled for mid-October, meaning Parliamentary business has had to be rescheduled.

She said: “The chancellor is going to push back the Budget to the week either beginning 19 or 26 November, would be my best guess.

“The resources and waste strategy will come after it because he will make the announcement on the plastics tax.”

Creagh said the strategy will have five ‘pillars’:

1. How we will become a zero avoidable waste economy by 2050

2. Phase out avoidable plastic waste by 2042

3. New targets for waste and recycling, which after Brexit will be the same as the EU’s circular economy package

4. Stopping food waste going to landfill by 2030

5. Reforming the PRN scheme

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