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ESA woos chemicals industry for sector deal

A resource productivity agreement for the chemicals industry is being discussed in Whitehall, with the Government said to be interested in developing a sector deal.

The move is part of a wider strategy from the Environmental Services Association (ESA) to develop a relationship with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Beis) to boost resource efficiency and productivity as part of extended producer responsibility.

Stewart Davies Augean

Stewart Davies Augean

The strategy was set out by ESA chair Stewart Davies (pictured) at the association’s annual lunch in London, when he told members that the ESA had been in contact with “parts of Whitehall we haven’t previously reached”.

“We have been finding our way into [Beis] to make the case for the [waste] sector and engage proactively with strategy as it is formulated, funded and rolled out,” he said.

The ESA has had meetings with representatives of the chemicala industry on ways to develop waste as a feedstock for manufacturing in the UK.

“The very latest Beis feedback is that it is interested in the proposed [chemicals] sector deal and what we can do if supported by stronger end markets for secondary resources.

“If successful, this will have our sector recognised by Beis as well as Defra as being 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,” Davies added.

He also spoke of two other ESA priorities: treatment capacity and waste crime. On the former, the ESA has commissioned a review by the Tolvik consultancy of all the available forecasts from across the industry.

Most reports from within the waster sector have indicated future undercapacity for waste treatment, notably energy-from-waste plants. They have diverged sharply from Eunomia’s influential forecast of overcapacity in the 2020s.

Davies said the Tolvik report was imminent, and it indicated the UK was heading for undercapacity in residual waste treatment.

He praised the Budget announcement of an additional £30m to the Environment Agency (EA) for tackling waste crime.

“This comes after the initial £23m ring-fenced for tackling waste crime in the 2015 spending review, which evidence shows is worth almost £20 for every pound spent. Importantly, it is clear that the £30m announced is incremental, and so we can look to the EA to become an effective deterrent to waste crime, with the expectation that this will lead to better business opportunities for legitimate, compliant operators,” he said.

Davies also praised EA chair Emma Howard Boyd, who had said in a BBC interview in October that she “gone in and banged on the table” about waste crime with environment secretary Michael Gove. He also said that Gove was a politician who realised the potential for lasting impact through Defra’s work.

Referring to the Chinese quality crackdown on exports from the UK, Davies said it had brought into sharp focus the need for sustainable end markets and outlets for the materials collected by ESA members.

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