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Waste definitions ‘holding back’ resource efficiency

Lobbying organisation Aldersgate Group has said that materials are being declared as waste too early, thereby preventing reuse.

Executive director Nick Molho (pictured) called for clearer European and national legislation when he gave evidence at an Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) session to allow more efficient movement of materials from one sector to another.

The lobby group’s written evidence, submitted before the session and ahead of the release of the EU circular economy package in December, said legislation tended to be either hazard based, risk based or defined by fixed standards, depending on which sector they applied.

“The different approaches have created silos of regulation … that now represent barriers to the efficient transition to a circular economy by making it harder for one sector’s secondary materials to be used in another,” it said.

Speaking at the session on 6 January, Mohlo said the European Commission had shown a willingness to address this problem in its proposals, but “the detail is not there yet and that is something that will be particularly interesting to follow through”.

When asked by Conservative MP Peter Lilley whether it was official bodies or companies which controlled the definition of waste, Molho said that EU regulators provided legislation but its implementation varied across member states.

“The concerns that I mentioned around the need for more efficiency in waste regulations is both an issue of EU institutions providing clearer rules, and also an issue of national regulators making more pragmatic decisions as to what should or should not be designated as waste.”

Molho described difficulties in transporting aluminium conductors between the National Grid and Bahrain-based Midal Cables as an example of different waste classifications preventing reuse.

He also said one of Aldersgate’s members decided not to transport clay that had been excavated to a nearby brickworks because the material was classified as waste and would have needed a licence to do so.

“This is particularly an issue of areas where EU legislation could be clearer, but is also an issue of national regulators making pragmatic and intelligent decisions in areas where they are given precisely the flexibility to interpret those directives.

“In order for business to innovate and be effective, we need effective regulatory decisions to be made and that requires resources in the first place.”

The session Molho spoke at included contributions from Green Party MP Caroline Lucas and Labour MP Mary Creagh.

Written evidence was also submitted by the Renewable Energy Association’s Ocean Energy Group.

In December, Aldersgate launched a two-year Europe-wide project to lobby politicians and stakeholders on circular economy strategy called the Alliance for Circular Economy Solutions.

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