Government commits to separate food waste collections in spending review

This year’s spending review for 2021-22, delivered by Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak today (25 November), emphasised the particular importance of implementing ‘consistent’ waste collection systems – including food waste – in English local authorities.

Building on the promises of the Environment Bill and Resources and Waste Strategy, in which the Government has pledged to introduce separate collections for food waste by 2023, this year’s spending review for 2021-22 includes a spending increase of £0.6 billion for Defra.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi SunakDefra

This will take Defra’s department expenditure limit (DEL) to a total of £5.8 billion for the next year.

The settlement includes fiscal support for increasing recycling and reducing waste, which will allow Defra to progress with extended producer responsibility (EPR) for packaging waste, introducing a deposit return scheme (DRS) and implementing a consistent waste collection system in all English local authorities.

This year’s spending review will also see investment in flood and coastal defence double to £5.2 billion over six years, aiming to better protect 336,000 properties by 2027.

Among investments to tackle climate change and reduce carbon emissions are £92 million to restore peatlands and plant 30,000 hectares of trees under the Nature for Climate Fund, an additional £7 million for biodiversity conservation in the UK Overseas Territories and £40 million for nature recovery through the Green Recovery Challenge Fund. 

‘Green industrial revolution’

The Chancellor also confirmed the investment of £12 billion in a ‘green industrial revolution’, following the Prime Minister’s announcement of a 10-point plan last week to enable the UK to reach its target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. 

Chancellor Rishi Sunk stated: “We in government can set the direction, better schools, more homes, stronger defence, safer streets, green energy, technological development, improved rail, enhanced roads – all investments that will create jobs and give every person in this country the chance to meet their potential.

“But it is the individual, the family, and the community that must become stronger, healthier and happier as a result. This is the true measure of our success.”

Industry response

Jacob Haylor, Chief Executive of the Environmental Services Association, commented: “Implementation of the Government’s Resources and Waste Strategy is absolutely fundamental to the development of the recycling sector. The principal policy measures under this, such as a consistent approach to collections, are sorely needed and will help consumers do the right thing, as well as underpin investment in recycling services and infrastructure for the next decade and beyond.

"The Chancellor’s Spending Review was right to highlight the importance of these measures, but the real Government commitment will need to come in subsequent spending rounds once these policies are implemented from 2023 onwards.”

The Chartered Institute of Waste Management (CIWM) Head of Policy, Knowledge and External Affairs, Pat Jennings, said: “CIWM’s joint submission to the HM Treasury in the Autumn urged the Treasury to ensure that relevant departmental settlements supported the effective and timely development and roll-out of these major policy frameworks, which have the potential to deliver a step change in recycling, product stewardship and design for waste prevention. We are pleased to see that has been acknowledged.”

However, the CIWM notes that there is 'no clear vision' for the future of waste infrastructure and the CIWM remains 'concerned' that the Government and the National Infrastructure Commissino (NIC) continue to underestimate the importance of waste infrastructure in protecting public health and the environment. In its infrastructure resilience report published earlier this year, the NIC excluded waste on the basis that 'the solid waste sector generally has longer timescales between hazard emergence and service impact and has less interdependency with other infrastructure sectors.'

Jennings continued: “This assumption has been thoroughly disproved by the COVID-19 pandemic, and CIWM would welcome the opportunity to work with the Government and the NIC to ensure that future infrastructure planning reflects and strengthens the role of the resources and waste sector in supporting a sustainable green recovery and the delivery of longer term UK-wide environmental protection, resource productivity and net zero ambitions.”