September is the month politicians get back into gear. Defra’s own watchdog, the Efra select committee, raced ahead, with Gove giving evidence and declaring that waste crime is the sector’s most urgent problem.
Efra also relaunched its inquiry into disposable coffee cups and plastic bottles.
In Scotland, the Government confirmed it would be introducing a deposit return scheme for drinks containers.
Landfill tax featured widely in the news. The Environment Agency calculated that the UK had just under seven years of landfill capacity left; Biffa put up a stout defence of the need for landfill; Augean sought support from the wider waste industry in a dispute over landfill tax assessment; and HMRC announced that rogue operators handling waste illegally in England will have to pay landfill tax from April, subsequently confirmed in the Budget.
Industrial disputes were prominent. While Doncaster’s pay row was resolved, Birmingham’s long-running bin dispute ended up in the courts after council concern that a pro-posed deal would have ramifications for equal pay across other sectors.
Another long-running saga concluded when the GMWDA confirmed it was ending its PFI contract with the Viridor Laing joint venture by acquiring its stake for just £1. England’s largest waste authority blamed “financial challenges due to prolonged austerity”.
The Local Government Ombudsman revealed that more than four-fifths of complaints about waste collection services last year were upheld, significantly more than for other local authority complaints.
The report said many complaints stemmed from poor monitoring by councils, but its conclusion was undermined by the ombudsman’s inability to say what proportion of these complaints related to outsourced services.