We are currently in the process of developing the formal policy proposals that we will share with the main political parties in the coming months. However, there are some essential items on our wish list that centre around the need for real political engagement.
If the European Commission’s recent Circular Economy Communication proves to have legs, waste and resources will continue to be high on the agenda across the EU and we need a government that is prepared to go to bat on a number of issues that can only be tackled at an international level.
One of the priorities is to explore what fiscal measures and stimuli can be employed to improve resource efficiency, including differential VAT rates and shifting the burden of tax from labour to resource consumption. Equally importantly, we must maintain the pressure for a system that measures performance and progress not only in a consistent way across the EU, which is not the case at the moment, but also in a smarter way, reflecting environmental impacts rather than crude tonnage-based targets. If the targets are to be pushed higher, it is essential that there is a fair and meaningful framework in place so that progress can be accurately monitored and reported.
At a national level, CIWM would like to see the political parties recognising the importance of resource efficiency and security from a business perspective. Rather than ‘leaving it to the market’, we need a government that is committed to creating departments that are capable of strong leadership and co-ordination, and ministers who are prepared to champion the waste and resource management agenda at a Cabinet level. Secretaries of State who dismiss those who champion the environmental agenda as the “Green Blob” are unlikely to move us toward a more resource efficient and circular economy.
One of the areas where cross-departmental work is most needed is in rethinking the approach to strategic planning, with the emphasis on building and exploiting the links between waste infrastructure, resource optimisation and local - and indeed national - economic development. This would not only ensure that the UK can capitalise on opportunities for green growth but would also help to crystallise and support the role of local authorities in promoting such growth.
Finally, further help is going to be needed for local authorities as they struggle to balance budget cuts with the need to deliver better recycling performance – both in terms of quality and quantity. We would like to see, perhaps through a redesign of the Producer Responsibility regime, a commitment to ensuring that they are better rewarded for being active partners in the resource cycle, both economically and through a more positive relationship with other parts of the supply chain.
Steve Lee is chief executive of the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management