FCC Environment launches report mapping key political challenges for waste sector

Recycling and waste management company FCC Environment has today (12 May) released a report named ‘Mapping the Politics of Waste’ that lays out key changes and challenges facing the waste and recycling sector in the coming years.

The report also sets out the opportunities for the sector ahead of the 2024 general election in the UK.

‘Mapping the Politics of Waste’ begins with a foreword from FCC Environment’s Chief Executive Officer, Paul Taylor, who explains the report will outline ‘how upcoming Government policy, Brexit, the race to net zero and other factors will impact our sector’.

Among the issues covered in the report are ‘The race to net zero’, ‘The Environment Bill’, ‘Tackling waste crime’, ‘Adapting to a post Covid-19 world’ and ‘Brexit’. Each section includes an explanation of the key challenges and opportunities for the sector, with regards to the issue highlighted.

In ‘The race to net zero’, FCC Environment highlights the potential role Energy from Waste (EfW) and retrofitting these with Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology could play in the waste sector reducing its carbon emissions.

The challenge for the waste sector is for it to be seen as part of the solution to achieving net zero, rather than an obstacle to it – as well as ensuring there is adequate government investment in CCS technology to retrofit the EfW plants necessary to process residual waste.

Introduced to the House of Commons in early 2020, the report considers the Government’s Environment Bill, which will implement significant changes in the waste sector, such as the Deposit Return Scheme (DRS), Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and consistent recycling collections.

Challenges for the waste sector pertain to the Bill’s slow journey through Parliament, meaning it will have ‘little time’ to be scrutinised if it is to be passed by the time the COP26 summit happens in early November 2021.

‘Tackling waste crime and enforcing regulation’ reports on the progress of the Environment Agency (EA) and the Joint Unit for Waste Crime (JUWC) on combating waste crime – which costs the UK economy £600 million every year.

The report highlights the key challenge in this area as relying on and encouraging the ‘bigger voices in the sector’ to call for ‘more ring fenced resources and tougher enforcement’ from the EA and additional spending for the JUWC.

Acknowledging the need for the waste and recycling sector to respond to changing demands as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, ‘Adapting to a post Covid-19 world’ details the disruption to industry and commercial waste collections seen over the past year or so as employees continue to work from home.

The report also highlights the strength of the waste sector in that it can create employment opportunities wherever there is demand and respond to population changes or changes in legislation.

For example, measures such as DRS are predicted to bring about a number of green jobs and play a role in ‘Building Back Better’, while government investment in innovative materials for heavy industry is projected to pave the way to creating a circular economy. 

In the ‘Brexit’ section of the report, the challenges and opportunities are highlighted as ones related to the UK shaping its own waste and recycling policy – with one such example being the shipment of unsorted plastic waste to non-OECD countries, where it is dumped and burned.
The report highlights concerns with the delay in future negotiations with the EU over environmental regulations, which could mean the UK Government is ‘bound by level playing field rules’.

CEO of FCC Environment Paul Taylor commented on the report: “The next few years promise to be turbulent for the sector. New legislation that will fundamentally impact on how we work coupled with the race to net zero and adapting to a post Covid-19 world, will present many challenges for us.

“Whatever Britain’s political future, I am confident that the waste and recycling sector can be instrumental in helping the UK achieve its goals and get back on its feet. Legislative and economic drivers will be required to help drive investment in new infrastructure and market growth, but over-regulation could be damaging to competition and the long-term viability of the sector.” 

Read the full report on FCC Environment's website.