The call from the food and drink industry to delay recycling policy development under the Government’s resources and waste strategy has been met with alarm by some within the recycling sector.
The heads of 32 influential food and drink industry bodies, including the National Farmers Union and the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), signed a letter to environment secretary Michael Gove asking him to pause as a matter of “great urgency” consultations on all food, farming and environmental issues because of uncertainty over Brexit.
These include consultations on a deposit return scheme, consistent household recycling services, an overhaul of the packaging recovery note system and proposed tax on plastic goods with less than 30% recycled content.
Some within the waste and recycling industry are anxious that the Government should press ahead with the consultations.
Recycling Association chief executive Simon Ellin said: “Although we appreciate the potential impact of Brexit could be huge on so many businesses, including everyone in our own sector, we believe the aims of the RWS go far beyond those of economics and into critical issues facing the environment and global sustainability.
”We believe they are far too important to put on hold and that Government should proceed with the consultations as soon as possible.”
Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee chief executive Lee Marshall said: “I think the industry would be very disappointed if the consultations were delayed in this way given that they were already supposed to be out by now.
“There is a great deal of change that the strategy aims to deliver but we need time to consider it and agree it to make sure the change that comes about is meaningful, and in terms of producer responsibility, shifts the burden of cost from local authorities and back to producers where it should rightly sit.”
But Resource Association chief executive Ray Georgeson took a different view.
“The failure to resolve Brexit and the increasing concern about the impact of a no-deal Brexit are rapidly rising up as a real concern, very well articulated by the FDF,” he said. ”I don’t believe a delay in consultations would have great consequences as most of the proposed policy developments are on long lead times anyway.
“As it stands though, Defra is signalling that consultation periods will be quite short to try to reach settled policy proposals in time to insert legislation as clauses in the Environment Bill, but the Environment Bill won’t be going anywhere if the nation is plunged into an economic, logistical and health crisis brought about by the predicted (and unpredicted) impacts of no-deal Brexit.
“The FDF articulate what many others in industry and commerce are saying – this is not industry leaders panicking unnecessarily, this is a reasoned and genuine bid to alert Government to the seriousness of the unfolding crisis.
“On this occasion, I hope the Government listen and act. Like many in our sector, I am genuinely enthused by the prospect of real reform in resources policy - but we’ve waited so long anyway that frankly, a few more weeks or months would make no difference, settling Brexit is more important.”
The letter to Gove from food and drink associations warned that businesses were now “totally focused on working to mitigate the catastrophic impact of a no-deal Brexit. Large amounts of time, money, people and effort are being diverted to that end… At this moment of potential crisis for our industry, it cannot be ‘business as usual’ within Government”.
“Neither we nor our members have the physical resources nor organisational bandwidth to engage with and properly respond to non-Brexit related policy consultations or initiatives at this time. Government has recruited many extra staff; we cannot.”