The new resource minister for England has called on businesses to take a leading role in the building of a circular economy, especially in areas where Defra will be cutting back on policy work.
In his first public address, Dan Rogerson told WRAP’s annual conference that the Government had “focus on the things that only government can and must do”. It reiterated the message he had set out in a letter to stakeholders the day before as Defra prioritises its activity in response to Whitehall spending cuts.
“The approach I want is for businesses to lead the way and for government to ensure the right framework is in place,” said Rogerson. “I have confidence in the skills and capabilities of British businesses to really drive forward the development of the circular economy.”
From April, Defra will no longer carry on policy work in the fields of construction and demolition (C&D) waste, commercial and industrial (C&I) waste, and energy from waste.
Environmental Services Association chairman David Palmer-Jones said: “Our sector can contribute hugely to the UK’s economic growth, creating 50,000 new green jobs and boosting GDP by £3bn. Government’s call to the private sector to take the lead will come to nothing unless Government continues to take firm action to implement and enforce regulation.”
Rogerson pointed out that the recovery rate in C&D was 93% in 2011, so there was already a commercial drive for materials recycling and it was not an area where the government needed to step in.
However, Colin Church, director of resource, atmosphere and sustainability at Defra, later said that other departments, such as Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS), were interested in taking up work on C&D waste from Defra, with “conversations happening in that space”.
As for C&I waste, Church admitted that Defra was not doing “a great deal of proactive work” in the sector. Previously, Defra had worked with the Environmental Services Association to promote access to waste collection and recycling services for small businesses but would not be revisiting it in the short term.
He said Defra also conducted surveys on C&I waste, with the latest carried out in 2009, but they were “extremely expensive”, so the department would not be repeating them in the foreseeable future.
Church said that that Defra would be putting a great emphasising on the shift to the Electronic Duty of Care (edoc), the online system set to replace paper-based Waste Transfer Notes from January 2014.
The system could provide Defra with additional information on C&I waste that could be used to shape future activities in the sector, he added.
I take my hat off to @DrColinChurch for how he handled questions at the WRAP conf in difficult circs. Direct answers, tho many are “no”!
— Roy Hathaway (@royh1956) November 7, 2013