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Review of 2016 - December

The main policy decision in December came from HM Revenue & Customs, which said it would introduce to existing landfill tax legislation the presumption that any material disposed of at a landfill site was taxable unless expressly exempt. This followed consultation in the summer.

Top of the news agenda was a development that took none by surprise: the first time the UK recycling rate had fallen since national records were collected. It fell from 44.9% in 2014 to 44.3%, putting the UK further away from meeting the 50% EU target by 2020.

England’s slide from 44.8% in 2014 to 43.9% in 2015 more than accounted for the drop, while the rate in Scotland and Wales continues to to increase.

Defra put it down to a decrease in organic recycling, while mainstream media said householders were increasingly confused by inconsistent collection regimes – although this was challenged within the industry as simplistic.

WRAP Cymru produced a report for the Welsh Government, based on practise in Wales, which concluded that source-separated kerbside collections offered the most cost-effective way to achieve high recycling rates.

Resource minister Therese Coffey surprised some by telling a meeting Brussels she wanted policy around extended producer responsibility (EPR) to be as guidance rather regulation. Insiders had thought Defra would embrace some regulatory elements in EPR.

Challenging market conditions continued to dog the industry. The Greater Manchester Waste Authority was in talks with Viridor about the cost to member councils of the company’s flagship 25-year public-private finance contract.

The BMRA warned that rising metal prices might prompt more crime, and challenged ministerial claims that the cash ban alone was having the effect of reducing it. The Home Office agreed to review the relevant 2013 Act a year earlier than planned.

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