The long-awaited resources and waste strategy for England has been published by Defra, and promises to create a consistent household recycling system and shift the cost of recycling on to producers.
Environment secretary Michael Gove launched the strategy at Veolia’s recycling centre in Southwark, London. The strategy includes mandatory food waste prevention targets for businesses, compulsory electronic tracking of waste and tougher penalties for waste criminals.
Gove has also promised to simplify household recycling to create consistency across the English system. However, timings for this will be considered as part of the Government’s spending review.
Under extended producer responsibility (EPR), the full net costs of disposing or recycling packaging will be paid by the producers, up from the current 10%. Defra estimates EPR for packaging will raise between £0.5bn and £1bn a year. EPR will also see manufacturers paying higher fees if their products are difficult to reuse, repair or recycle.
Gove said: “Our strategy sets out how we will go further and faster to reduce, reuse and recycle. Together we can move away from being a throwaway society, to one that looks at waste as a valuable resource.
“We will cut our reliance on single-use plastics, end confusion over household recycling, tackle the problem of packaging by making polluters pay, and end the economic, environmental and moral scandal that is food waste.”
The last time a waste strategy was reviewed was back in 2011. This latest review was first announced 18 months ago but it has been delayed several times.
The waste management sector has been eagerly awaiting the launch.
Veolia’s chief technology and innovation officer Richard Kirkman said: “The Government has listened to industry, and these steps have the clear potential to dramatically change the way the sector operates to increase recycling and recovery rates.
“With consistent collections and advanced facilities like this at Southwark, more recyclable materials can be collected for reprocessing into new products. As a business we are ready to invest, to take advantage of new technology, build more infrastructure and work with brand owners and local authorities to harness resources on an industrial scale.”
FCC chief executive Paul Taylor said he was encouraged that the strategy included a commitment to energy-from-waste technology as a way to divert waste from landfill.
Biffa chief executive Michael Topham said: “Now that Government policy has been set out, we must work together across supply chains and the public and private sectors to move from short-term, interim initiatives to fundamental, long-term actions.
Environment Agency (EA) chief executive Sir James Bevan said: “We support a circular economy and welcome the resource and waste strategy that will help us all to deliver it. The plan embodies a solid commitment to tackling serious and organised waste crime, which drains the economy and blights communities.
“Last year, the EA closed down more than 800 illegal sites and carried out 93 successful prosecutions. The strategy sets to build on our successes, with additional resources, better innovation and improved partnerships across government and enforcement agencies.”
Industry Council for Packaging and the Environment chief executive Paul Vanston said: “The focus on whole-system changes is welcome, including packaging reforms, consistency of councils’ household collections and ways to increase investment in recycling infrastructure.”
At the same time, the Government announced £8m of funding for eight research projects to explore new ways of making, using and recycling plastics. In the Autumn Budget, the Government announced a tax on plastic packaging that did not have at least 30% recycled material in it.
What the strategy promises
- Producers to pay the net costs of disposal or recycling of packaging – up from the 10% now.
- Review its producer responsibility schemes for items that are difficult or expensive to recycle such as cars, electrical goods, batteries.
- Look at extending producer responsibility to textiles, fishing gear, vehicle tyres, certain materials from construction and demolition, and bulky waste such as mattresses, furniture and carpets.
- Introduce a consistent set of recyclable materials collected from all households and businesses.
- Introduce consistent labelling on packaging to let people know what they can recycle and how.
- Ensure weekly collections of food waste for every household subject to consultation, which will also discuss the inclusion of free garden waste collections.
- Introduce a deposit return scheme, subject to consultation, for bottles, cans and disposable cups filled at point of sale.
- Look at mandatory guarantees and extended warranties to encourage manufacturers to design products to last.
- Introduce annual reporting of food surplus and waste by food businesses, or mandatory targets for food waste prevention.
- Clamp down on illegal movements of waste by introducing compulsory electronic tracking of waste.
- Tougher penalties for waste criminals.