Defra Parliamentary Under-Secretary calls for ‘consistency’ in waste management

Speaking to the Chartered Institute of Waste Management’s (CIWM) Resourcing the Future Conference today (21 October), MP Jo Churchill, the recently appointed Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, set out the Government’s ambitions for the waste management and resource sectors.

Jo ChurchillChurchill opened her speech by highlighting her desire to work collaboratively with the sectors, placing an emphasis on the delivery of solutions for consumers, as well as producers. Reflecting on her time as Under-Secretary for the Department of Health and Social Care, Churchill outlines common ground between the sectors, both of which she says had ‘the most outstanding response to the pandemic’.

Net Zero strategy

Earlier this week, the Government unveiled its Net Zero strategy, which sets out a path towards ending the UK’s contribution to climate change before 2050. In her speech, Churchill outlined the key commitments that will impact the waste management and resource sectors, including targets to eliminate biodegradable and reusable waste to landfill from 2028, and bringing forward 295 million of capital funding to help local authorities in England prepare to implement separate food waste collections for all households from 2025.

The strategy also includes plans to ‘kick-start’ the commercialisation of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), of which waste materials, such as household refuse, are a feedstock. The Government is aiming to enable the delivery of 10 per cent SAF by 2030, supporting industry with approximately £180 million in investment to assist the development of the fuel across UK plants.

£1 billion in funding is to be allocated to two carbon capture clusters – the Hynet Cluster in North West England and North Wales, and the East Coast Cluster in Teesside and the Humber – despite concerns that carbon capture and storage (CCS) will perpetuate waste-burning through exacerbating the ‘lock-in’ effect associated with such technologies. Proponents, however, emphasise the benefits that CCS could bring by reducing the release of greenhouse gases (GHG) into the atmosphere.

The Environment Bill

The Environment Bill, currently in its final legislative stages, will ‘lay the foundation for a green recovery, restoring biodiversity, and cutting carbon emissions’, Churchill said this afternoon. She asserted that the bill would set the tone for the upcoming COP26 summit, of which the UK is the host, as it ‘embodies the ambition to leave our environment in a better state than we found it.’

The bill, she continued, ‘sets out a comprehensive package of measures to reduce waste and increase recycling. These powers give us the tools we need to manage the collective impact of our waste, and move towards a circular economy.’ Churchill highlighted some of the ‘more ambitious policies to reform the waste sector’ included in the bill, namely the deposit return scheme (DRS), as well as the standardisation of food waste and plastics collections across local councils, which she asserts will ‘make it easier for everyone to recycle’ and deliver a carbon emissions reduction of ‘over a million tonnes’.

Churchill was later asked why the Government had not included any further measures to enforce waste management behaviours upon householders, to which she responded by restating her desire to ‘make things easier’. She continued: ‘We could make it easier by having consistency, by labelling… English isn't the first language of many people within our society – that makes it a brilliantly diverse and interesting place, but when you are faced with very small type, the elderly, the partially sighted… we don’t do a lot to help groups who might find this quite difficult’.

In her speech, Churchill also pointed to powers introduced by the Bill to implement extended producer responsibility (EPR), shifting the responsibility of dealing with key areas of waste ‘away from the taxpayer’, ‘powerfully incentivising’ producers to reduce waste and increase recycling. She thanked all who took part in the consultations for the policy, which she says will ‘shape the proposals carefully, so they are ambitious, but also proportionate’, outlining the end of 2021, or early 2022, as an expected response date.

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