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Industry, councils and businesses react to strategy

The resources and waste strategy, launched by environment secretary Michael Gove, could radically change the flow of investment around the sector. Here, we present initial reactions to the plans.

Environmental Services Association: Resources will be key to making new strategy work

The resources and waste strategy could set a long-term framework to attract investment and create more jobs in recycling, “if implemented well”, according to the ESA.

It estimates that the strategy could unlock £8m in investment and create 50,000 jobs. But for this to happen, ESA executive director Jacob Hayler said the strategy will “need to be turned into detailed actions that matter”.

He added: “As an industry, we have been crying out for action to make things clearer and easier for householders and businesses, to boost recycled content and reduce unnecessary packaging.

”The UK public wants to recycle more plastics and other materials, and our sector wants to invest in and accelerate the move to a lower carbon, more circular economy.”

Chartered Institution of Wastes Management: The sector has an unrivalled opportunity to engage with the Government

CIWM executive director Chris Murphy said the strategy provided the framework to “reboot” recycling.

“Importantly, the strategy also acknowledges the need for action right at the top of the waste hierarchy, as well as a focus on food waste prevention and measures to address some of the key barriers to reuse and remanufacture.”

Murphy added that the focus on waste crime proved the Government had listened to industry concerns.

“The proposal for mandatory electronic tracking of waste, meanwhile, will not only help to prevent waste crime but will also provide better data to ensure that the economic value of secondary materials can be fully captured.

“There is still a lot of hard work to do, however, and we have an unrivalled opportunity as a sector to engage with the Government during the next few months as the raft of expected consultations are launched.”

Suez: Cross-industry co-ordination needed

The waste and resources strategy is “an ambitious step change in the nation’s journey towards a circular economy”, according to waste management firm Suez.

Chief executive David Palmer-Jones said that the strategy “demands better co-ordination” between all those involved in the production and management of waste, and will “empower businesses across the value chain to work together, helping consumers to make sustainable choices regarding the things they buy and throw away”.

Palmer-Jones added: “We are particularly pleased to see Defra’s backing for a full net cost recovery model of producer responsibility, which outpaces European counterparts, and welcome the fact that businesses will be asked to help determine the detail of this through consultation early next year.

“If done correctly, this could provide better funding for council and commercial waste collection and sorting services, which would improve recycling, while minimising the cost to consumers and taxpayers. It should also lead to greater harmonisation of services, which makes life easier for consumers.

“Making producers fully responsible for the cost and collection of products and packaging will put Britain back among the world leaders for attaining higher recycling rates and driving out waste.

“The strategy rightly, however, seeks to give business some say in how this can be most effectively implemented to achieve environmental goals without inflating costs.

“We also welcome the new policy of mandatory separate food waste collections although, again, welcome the fact that Defra will consult local authorities to determine the detail of implementation.”

FCC: Encouraged to see commitment on EfW

Chief executive Paul Taylor said: ”With last week’s news that recycling rates have fallen, there is clearly an urgent need to relook at our approach, and we welcome the ambitious plans that Defra has laid out to make the UK a more resource-efficient nation. It seems that they have listened to our views.

“In particular, we are encouraged to see a commitment to energy-from-waste technology as a way to divert waste from landfill, and an increased focus on reuse, which has been a much-overlooked part of waste policy for many years.”

Resource Association: Promise of a kick-start to the circular economy

RA chief executive Ray Georgeson said that, although many of the key proposals were subject to consultation, “the signalling of major change is clear”.

”If effectively implemented, many of the measures outlined hold the promise of the kick-start to the circular economy that we urgently need.

“As the all-important consultation exercises unfold in the new year, around EPR, DRS, consistent collections and food waste collections, we look forward to playing our part in facilitating informed debate and discussion on the options and potential. Together with partners Inpen, CIWM, ESA and WRAP, we will be hosting a major conference and workshops in London on 13 February to gather colleagues from all parts of the resources supply chain to share intelligence and debate the key issues outlined for consultation.”

Like many commenters, the RA was heartened to see plans for separate food waste collections in order to drive up recycling rates. “Together with the step-change planned for producers of packaging in terms of paying the full cost of recovering their products and a more streamlined, consistent approach to local recycling collections, we are optimistic for a more resource-efficient England at long last,” added Georgeson.

Although he applauded the Government’s commitment to packaging reform, he warned that a DRS was a contentious ‘sub-issue’ that could get in the way.

Recycling Association: Investment needed for new recycling capacity

Chief executive Simon Ellin said the strategy addresses many of the association’s concerns about improving recycled material quality. He added that retailers and manufacturers will need to pay for the recycling of the materials they put on the market.

“We also welcome the idea of a modulated fee, so that those who use packaging that is very difficult or impossible to recycle will have to pay most. This should provide an incentive to them to make their packaging more recyclable.

“Compulsory electronic tracking of waste should help to crack down on waste crime, but we need to ensure it doesn’t create onerous bureaucracy for Recycling Association members.

“Although we welcome the previously announced tax on plastic packaging that does not use a minimum 30% recycled content, the strategy does not mention how investment will be generated for new UK recycling capacity to provide that recycled content. We hope the consultation will address this omission. It also needs to look at how improvements can be made to the planning system to make it easier to set up new recycling capacity in the UK.”

Anaerobic Digestion & Bioresources Association: We ask for food waste consultation to be published as quickly as possible

Charlotte Morton, ADBA chief executive, said: “It’s an absolute no-brainer that inedible food waste should be separately collected so it does not end up wasted in incinerators or landfill, and so the energy and nutrition locked up in it can be reused, reducing the UK’s need for fossil-based energy and fertiliser. As the strategy says, it is a moral scandal that so much of this valuable resource is wasted.

“A commitment by ministers to universal food waste collections will finally allow England to catch up with the rest of the UK in recycling its inedible food waste while, most importantly, reducing the amount wasted in the first place.

“However, 2023 is a long way off. There are around 70 local authorities with their waste contracts up for renewal in the next three years – so, for this policy to have tangible effects, we need actions from the Government long before 2023 to provide funding, guidance and support to local authorities to implement separate food waste collections as quickly as possible. This is not only vital for us to meet our commitments under the fourth and fifth carbon budgets, but is also the lowest cost option.

“We therefore ask for the promised consultation to be published as quickly as possible, so stakeholders can give their views on how to get separate food waste collections operating on the ground.”

WRAP: A major step forward, with lots to do

Chief executive Marcus Gover said the proposal on reform to extended producer responsibility (EPR) was “the biggest potential game-changer”.

He said: “It means we will be moving to a system where producers pay the full net costs of dealing with the packaging waste they produce, in line with the polluter pays principle and the EU circular economy package. This will certainly drive up recycling rates, and should lead producers to design better products and packaging.”

Gover said plans to establish more consistent recycling collections across English councils could help to drive up stalling recycling rates.

“However, it is clearly vital that all local authorities are funded to help implement these requirements, whether through finance raised by the proposed EPR scheme for packaging or otherwise. And there is still a lot to do on design and implementation of these measures.”

Gover also recognised that some people will argue that the strategy did not contain enough to “make the leap to a genuinely circular economy in quick enough time, given the urgency we face”.

Textile Recycling Association: Encouraged that textiles are identified as a ‘priority stream’

Alan Wheeler, TRA director, said the strategy provided “a promising framework” to build on but that “the devil is in the detail”. The TRA is “looking forward to being part of the process to develop this”.

He said: “We are particularly encouraged to see that textiles has been identified as one of the five priority streams to be reviewed and consulted on over measures such as extended producer responsibility and product standards, and it is interesting that they are linking this with the polluter pays principle.

“This is particularly relevant for textiles because the strategy points out that, although the clothing sector is only the 8th largest in the UK and EU based on household spend, in terms of environmental impact it has the 4th largest impact behind housing, transport and food.

“We also welcome the focus on addressing ‘fast fashion’. We will be delighted to work with our partners at WRAP and stakeholders from across the clothing supply chain in trying to deliver what is a complex and difficult issue to address.”

Wood Recyclers’ Association: Restrictions on waste exemptions should be immediate

Julia Turner, executive director, supported the strategy’s focus on reuse which she said plays a key role in the UK’s waste wood market.

“We are also pleased to see there are plans to help tackle waste crime because we believe this is a big issue for our members and our industry as a whole. However, we are disappointed that the restrictions of waste exemptions will not be an immediate action but rather one planned for later in the year.”

Renewable Energy Association: Food waste must be captured at earliest oppportunity

Jeremy Jacobs, REA technical director, said: “We have been pressing Defra for a number of years to follow the example of the devolved nations to mandate food waste collections, in order that this valued resource is better utilised rather than being landfilled.

“We need more work on waste prevention measures but, alongside these, it is vital that both household and commercial food waste is captured within this initiative, with local authorities being sufficiently incentivised or funded to make this happen at the earliest opportunity.

“We are also keen to see that existing infrastructure is used effectively to treat garden waste and food waste, where it is commingled, rather than send food waste excessive distances to anaerobic digestion facilities. Many in-vessel composting facilities already exist and have a valuable role to play in the treatment of food waste.”

Local Government Association: Strategy must be properly funded

Plans to improve recycling and achieve a circular economy outlined in the resources and waste strategy can only be achieved with proper funding, the LGA has warned.

It welcomed news that producers would need to pay the full cost of recycling or disposal of packaging, and said councils had worked hard to increase recycling but recognised more was needed.

However, it warned that moves to standardise waste services including weekly food collections needed to be fully funded.

LGA environment spokesman Martin Tett said: “Not every council area is currently able to recycle everything due to long-term contracts being held with different companies with different infrastructure available. Therefore, upfront funding is vital to making this work.

“It is crucial that any new system is phased in over time and still allows councils to determine how their local services work for residents, and takes account of the differences between inner city and rural areas.”

Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee: Concerns over cost of food waste collections and HWRCs

Larac pointed out that councils currently bear 90% of the costs of dealing with products that end up in household waste. It said that a sharper focus on product design, material simplification and design for recycling as proposed in the strategy will go a long way to improving recycling rates.

It has asked Defra what “full net cost recovery” in relation to EPR actually means, because this is key to the level of funding available to local authorities.

Larac has reservations about the prospect of mandated weekly food waste collections because there are no concrete proposals on how these will be funded. It is also concerned about the proposals to boost reuse schemes and HWRCs unless they are accompanied by additional resources.

It also views the introduction of ’non-binding performance indicators’ as an interesting development that could be seen by some as targets by the back door.

Larac chair Carole Taylor said: “The devil will be in the detail of the consultations, but we will continue to work closely with Defra to support it through the next stages of this ground-breaking shift away from public sector reliance to producer accountability.”

Chief executive Lee Marshall said: “Defra has hinted that it wants to be quite prescriptive in how local authority waste operations are carried out in the future. If the funding is not forthcoming to support this then the ambitions will not get off the ground and councils will be left deciding which services, be that libraries, day or leisure centres, they will have to reduce to pay to meet these targets.”

County Councils Network: More joined-up approach with district councils needed

Spokesman Philip Atkins: “The Government rightly recognises the complexity of waste collection in two-tier areas. The strategy outlines that closer joint working could make savings for local areas and improve services for residents. We want to work with district councils to implement a more joined and collaborative approach reducing the post code lottery on what and when is collected, and securing savings to improve the quality of services.

“Ministers also recognise the pressures that county authorities face in having to make savings from their waste management budgets, but at this point do not offer tangible solutions. Already this year we have seen counties having to reduce opening times or close household waste recycling centres due to severe pressures and overspends in social care.

“This is why the Government needs either to provide additional funding for councils to preserve these highly valued services or encourage greater co-operation and flexibility for councils to make local decisions in consultation with their communities, such as a small charge for use of these facilities so they are preserved in the long run.”

National Association of Waste Disposal Officers: Intervention to help councils much needed

A Nawdo statement read: “We are particularly encouraged by the commitment to full cost recovery of collection, disposal and recycling of waste, much of which results from goods and materials put on to the market. Local authority collection and disposal is highly efficient and has needed an intervention of this kind for some time to assist with total waste reduction and to make non-recyclable packaging a thing of the past.”

Business in the Community: Businesses must go further and beat 2030 targets

Companies must take advantage of the opportunities offered by the resources and waste strategy and beat 2030 environmental targets, according to BITC.

Environment director Gudrun Cartwright said: “By making the most of valuable resources, businesses can lead the way and help turn the tide on waste by 2030.

“That is a critical year if we are to ensure we have an environment in which business and communities can flourish. The risks of inaction are enormous, but so too are the opportunities that could be created from a prosperous and resilient, low-carbon economy.”

Incpen: Shunting funds from producers to councils is not enough in itself

Chief executive Paul Vanston said: “The resources industry cannot afford for either the Treasury or council finance departments to see producer funding as an opportunity to reduce existing council recycling and waste budgets. The net effect of such detrimental moves would be to stifle the very performance uplifts in recycling and resource efficiency that Defra’s strategy seeks to achieve.

“The strategy is an opportunity to electrify a renewed national culture that sees a 50% recycling rate for our country as a minimum threshold from which we have a clear plan to advance strongly towards 65%. Stimulating collective civic pride across our communities is an essential component of squeezing the best performance from recycling collections, and maximising value from existing and new food waste collections.

“Shunting funds from producers to councils and others is not enough in itself to deliver the greenest UK economy we desire. Citizen involvement and buy-in is critical, and securing that is better done when public, private and civil society objectives and activities are unified by a galvanising strategy.”

Coca-Cola European Partners GB: Once in a generation opportunity to build a better recycling system

CCEP GB applauded the Government and said the company has championed reform of the existing producer responsibility system.

A spokesperson said: “The resources and waste strategy represents a once in a generation opportunity to build a better recycling system in this country. We have also advocated the role that a well-designed DRS could play in increasing the recovery and recycling of bottles and cans, so we are pleased to see this is included in the strategy. We look forward to working with Government to develop a system that provides the best possible outcomes for consumers and the environment.”

Tomra Collection Solutions UK & Ireland: Looking forward to a DRS

Managing director Truls Haug said: “We believe that a DRS has an integral part to play in the resource revolution. Our global experience has seen such schemes increase recycling rates dramatically for drinks containers to more than 90% in the vast majority of markets, showing the potential for change in England when a scheme is rolled out.

“DRSs are good for the environment and good for the economy. We look forward to the launch of the consultation where we can share our experience in reverse vending and recycling around the world to help create a world-class DRS which is efficient, inclusive, convenient and attractive to consumers, manufacturers and retailers, encouraging high return rates.

“The importance of a strong circular economy has never been clearer. We look forward to the start of the consultation for England in early 2019.”

Foodservices Packaging Association: Use the most simple recycling labelling

Executive director Martin Kersh said: “We agree that industry should take more responsibility for hard to recycle products but question why, apart from research funding proposals, is no direct action being taken on cigarettes and chewing gum, which account for morea than 50% of litter? While the litter strategy is meant to cover this, it must be abundantly clear that, as far as the propensity to litter these two items, neither the litter strategy nor this resources strategy will make any impact. We very much welcome the intention to confront and end waste crime.

“Consistent labelling is hugely welcomed, and the FPA proposes the most simple system being ‘recycled’ or ’not recycled’. We question the point of anything in between which research shows only serves to confuse the public.”

DS Smith: Public remains confused by the UK’s 150 or more different household waste collection methods

Jochen Behr, head of recycling, said: “Society is changing rapidly, with more cardboard and plastic packaging coming into our homes than ever before. In response, we need to rethink our recycling infrastructure and back this with more investment – the proposed reform to the packaging waste regulations should drive this. We stand ready to work with the Government and industry to help reverse our declining recycling rates and keep precious resources in use for longer.”

Eunomia: 75% plastic packaging recycling rate should have statutory footing

Eunomia supported the Government’s commitment to matching, or exceeding, the measures of the EU Plastics Directive, and that the key milestones have included the consultancy’s suggestion that a 75% recycling rate for plastic packaging should have a statutory footing.

Chairman Dominic Hogg said: “It is comforting to see that the support we gave to the EU in developing the Directive on single-use plastics and fishing gear is influencing UK policy.

“However, it is disappointing to see that, once again, the Government is not taking a strong stance on the issue of disposable cups. The measures included in the strategy focus on increasing the recyclability of cups which, while being well-intentioned, does not solve the littering problem caused by these throwaway items.”

Clarity Environmental: Ambitions will need to be turned into action

David Honcoop, managing director, said: “It is important that all areas of the sector take part in shaping future details so that we encourage well thought-out solutions that achieve the best environmental and economic outcomes for all. We will continue to represent our packaging and waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) scheme members interests as discussions progress.”

Recolight: Online sellers will be responsible for WEEE compliance

Chief executive Nigel Harvey said: “The move to making online sellers responsible for WEEE compliance of the products they sell is very welcome. Recolight has campaigned long and hard for this change. The level of WEEE avoidance on some major marketplaces is very high – our research showed that 76% of LED light bulbs available on one site were in breach of the WEEE regulations.”

Ecosurety: EPR for textiles, tyres and mattresses could have significant impact

Policy manager Robbie Staniforth said: “Of particular note to Ecosurety and its members is Defra’s prioritisation of a public consultation on existing EPR regulations. We are encouraged that the department has listened to the industry’s call for more material streams to be included. New, improved EPR legislation and an expansion into sectors such as textiles, tyres and mattresses could have a significant impact on how the UK both consumes goods and how it recovers valuable, recyclable materials.

“It must be noted that new EPR channels will require adequate investment. In this way, the UK’s recycling infrastructure will be in a position to handle an expansion into new sectors. Without investment we will remain reliant on export channels for our recycling. This would reduce traceability and compromise UK recycling and environmental integrity.”

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