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More to gain inside the EU

Landfill directive

But this mass of chatter will surely be nothing compared with the volume once the nation makes its ‘in or out’ decision.

For many people, the choice was clear-cut before the pros and cons were aired, but others have continued to express confusion about what Brexit would really mean for the country.

Such puzzlement is unsurprising and there are many factors to consider. The outcome of the vote will affect the economy, jobs, legislation, culture, global trade and our standard of living, one way or another. But what about the waste and recycling sector? What change could we expect?

Untha polled visitors to its website to survey opinions. It posed three statements and, when asked to choose which they most agreed with, participants showed relatively strong solidarity. 67% said they thought an exit would have a potentially negative impact on the waste and recycling industry, 22% thought it would strengthen our industry’s position and 11% said they didn’t think the industry would experience any change. Interestingly, this final view, which attracted the fewest votes, is one I’ve heard in other business sectors too.

I very much agree with the majority here, as does Untha’s managing director Marcus Brew, who was interviewed on the famous red sofa of the BBC’s Breakfast Show on the subject.

Our company’s viewpoint is perhaps not a shock. On a personal and perhaps selfish level, Untha is part of a global business with a strong presence in Europe. We have worked hard to create a number of jobs throughout our operation and will naturally do our utmost to protect them. The successful trade of goods and services across the continent is key to this.

On a wider economic level, we are concerned about the risk to GDP, whichcould represent a loss of billions. We have experienced such turbulence in recent times that we should seek to minimise any further disruption that Brexit could inevitably cause. The UK needs to maintain its focus and make the most of the desire for positive change that other member states have also expressed.

In terms of the likely impact of an ‘out’ vote on waste and recycling, I strongly dispute many claims from industry thinkers who believe we will see no change. You only have to look at the All Party Parliamentary Environment Group’s report, widely cited in the press, to see why. The document reinforced my fears of uncertainty and disruption while indicating that the UK’s environmental policy could be adversely affected.

European Directives have given the UK the impetus to work towards a more sustainable future, and I worry that environmental commitments will be sidelined – if not shelved altogether – if we are no longer driven by international obligations and targets.

While there are some leading lights in UK politics, those with true environmental ambition are few and far between. I don’t think the UK would have seen the same level of landfill progress, for example, if we had notbeen driven by the Landfill Directive. We undoubtedly would not have seen as much investment in recycling, renewable technologies and alternative fuel production. And knows what will happen to the circular economy?

In environmental terms, the UK lags behind some of our European neighbours such as Denmark and Austria, so we have more to gain as a unified ‘community’ rather than a nation on its own. I’m also worried there seems to be little planning from Defra for a possible exit.

We all have a say, and the importance of the vote on 23 June should not be underestimated. But, whatever the outcome, we must try to remain focused on our industry.

We are a business community equipped with an in-built robustness to get through murky times and, whilst we’d rather things sometimes be a little more straightforward and certain, we won’t have a choice but to get on and concentrate on what we do best.

Chris Oldfield is chairman at Untha UK

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