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Review of 2017 - December

England’s recycling rate managed to rise after plateauing in recent years. The figures also meant that the country narrowly avoided being the ‘worst’ recycling nation.

This state of affairs was aided by Defra including, for the first time, metal retrieved from incinerator bottom ash at energy-from-waste facilities.

The latest figures for WEEE collected in the UK this year confirmed industry concern that the 2017 target was over-optimistic. The total at the end of Q3 stood at 404,053 tonnes, proportionately well below the annual goal of 622,033 tonnes, itself 40,000 tonnes higher than that reported throughout 2016.

In some ways, 2017 was a good year for landfill, with valuable business deals and strong arguments for its continuing use. Landfill tax remains one of the few policy drivers in the sector this century, and a report this month from the Aldersgate Group, which lobbies on sustainability, concluded that the tax had driven innovation, generated jobs and prompted new business models.

Businesses across the plastics value chain must have been scrambling for PR experts after the screening of David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II programmes. One, which linked the death of a whale calf with ocean plastic litter, made a huge impression on the general public. The British Plastics Federation complained at the connection but the BBC stood firm. 

Gove engaged with the packaging debate by inviting WRAP to lead industry discussions on a cross-sector plan which could inform Defra’s forthcoming resources and waste strategy. He also indicated a wide-ranging approach in the New Year to the environmental challenge of plastics.

In a final flutter of policy moves before Christmas, the Home Office frustrated the BMRA by refusing to tighten measures in the Scrap Metal Dealers’ Act and the Circular Economy package from Brussels was agreed in principle.

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