Defra to promote ‘high quality recycling’ in Waste Management Plan

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) yesterday (27 January) released its revised Waste Management Plan for England, following consultation responses.

The Plan evaluates how it will support the objectives of the Waste Regulations 2011 (which at the time was a transposition of the EU’s revised Waste Framework Directive) and sets out a number of measures to promote ‘high quality recycling’, separate biowaste collections, extended producer responsibility (EPR) and to prevent all forms of littering.

Promoting ‘high quality recycling’

With a goal to increase recycling rates to 65 per cent by 2035, the Resources and Waste Strategy aims for local authorities to collect a consistent set of dry recyclables from households in England, to collect food waste separately on a weekly basis, as well as separately target garden waste. 

However, the new Plan highlights that recycling quality is often poor in places due to ‘many local authorities following co-mingled collections and not separating glass from other materials as recommended’.

The Plan lays out requirements consolidated in the Environment Bill, following consultation responses, for separate collections of recyclable waste streams.

It also cites the increased plastic bag charge (from 5p to 10p), pending consultation on a deposit return scheme and the ban on plastic drinking straws, stirrers and cotton buds as ways in which consumers are helped to recycle and dispose of materials they use in an ‘environmentally sensitive’ manner.

Collecting bio-waste separately

Following a pledge made in the Environment Bill and the Resources and Waste Strategy to introduce separate food waste collections by 2023, the Government emphasised the importance of implementing ‘consistent’ food waste collections across English local authorities.

As the decision to collect bio-waste separately currently lies with local authorities, of which 50 per cent offer food waste collections either with garden waste or separately, the requirement to offer weekly separate food waste collections is being legislated in the Environment Bill.

The Government has stated in the Plan that it will ‘give further consideration to the costs and benefits of this measure before making a final decision on whether a free minimum service for garden waste collection should be required, or whether charging should remain a matter for local decision making’.

With regards to how this waste is treated, the Plan lays out ways in which the Government is supporting bio-waste recycling through anaerobic digestion (AD) and composting. These include opportunities to ‘promote synergies between food waste and other bio-waste and renewable energy to support decarbonisation of transport, heat and power’.

It is also working with the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) on the Green Gas Support Scheme (GGSS), which will provide tariff support for biomethane produced through AD and injected into the gas grid.

Extending producer responsibility

Having joined forces with industry to expand the UK’s Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) system late last year, the Government is set to launch consultations on existing and new EPR schemes throughout 2021.

With schemes currently in place for packaging waste, end-of-life vehicles, batteries and accumulators and waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), Defra lays out plans to introduce EPR and product standards for five new waste streams, including textiles, bulky waste, certain types of construction waste, vehicle tyres and fishing gear as part of its Resources and Waste Strategy. 

Preventing all forms of littering

In addition to a number of legislative provisions from the Environmental Protection Act 1980, the Plan outlines the measures it has taken to combat England’s litter.

Building on its Litter Strategy for England from 2017, which was generally well-received but criticised by industry for ‘missing opportunities’ to expand EPR, Defra sets out measures in the Plan to include EPR and an impending consultation on a deposit return scheme (DRS).