Defra to ‘crack down on waste cowboys’

The Department of Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) will ‘crack down on waste cowboys’, according to Liz Truss, speaking at the Conservative Party Conference yesterday (6 October).

In her 13-minute speech to party delegates at the Conference, taking place in Manchester this week, Truss, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, focused almost entirely on supporting British farmers and domestic food production, needed to feed a growing production, and only addressed the issue of waste once in a brief aside.

She said: “We’re going to crack down on waste cowboys through on the spot fines, enabling law-abiding businesses to thrive.”

The Environment Agency has been promoting awareness of waste crime and its ramifications on the public recently, and on 23 September 14 people were arrested in the North East as part of an investigation into a suspected £78-million landfill tax fraud.

Despite her focus on food production, Truss, who has held the office since replacing Owen Paterson in July 2014, did not mention the growing issue of food waste, recently raised by MP Kerry McCarthy’s Food Waste (Reduction) Bill, introduced to Parliament in September.

She did, however, mention Defra’s attempt to reduce red tape in the department. She said: “At Defra we must challenge pointless regulation and streamline and modernise our organisation.

“In this parliament, we will cut another half a billion pounds of red tape, in addition to the £300 million we cut in the last parliament. I want to see farmers farming, not form filling.”

Stewart suggests plans for uniform collection systems

On Sunday (4 October), at a fringe session at the Conference, Defra minister Rory Stewart suggested that the variation in council collection systems is harming recycling efforts, and expressed a desire to make them more uniform over the next decade.

He did, however, note that work would need to be done to assess existing collection schemes to determine which ones are most effective and that it is unlikely that Defra would take away the power of local authorities (LAs) to choose their collection system.

Rather than offering financial incentive to switch systems, as attempted by Eric Pickles in the last government, Stewart suggested that Defra would work with LAs and the private sector to create a voluntary framework.

Speaking at the ‘Putting nothing to waste: a cleaner, greener economy’ meeting at Manchester Town Hall, he said: “We have about 360 different local authorities, doing different things with their waste. It is completely mad.

“It is mad in terms of us as householders, crossing those ‘Berlin Walls’ on London streets and trying to work out what is in our waste. It is mad from the point of view of the waste industry trying to work out how to get any economies of scale, its mad in terms of the councils themselves. It doesn’t save them any money having these different systems for waste.

“If we can have, realistically, five or six different systems we end up in a position where it is better for the ratepayer, better for the councils and better for the environment.

“A lot of these people have signed contracts that are 20, 25 years long, but over the period of the next 10 years, it is perfectly realistic, I believe, for 70 per cent of councils to have signed up to three or four different types of recycling and the only thing that would be required is leadership, energy and a bit of a team.” 

Learn more about the case for more consistency in recycling collections.