Government urged to reform business waste recycling policy

The Waste Network Chairs published an open letter yesterday (3 November) supporting efficiency proposals for the collection of business packaging waste.

Addressed to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, George Eustice, the local authority waste networks’ statement challenges private sector concerns about the impact of proposals in the current consultation on extended producer responsibility (EPR).

Waste Chairs Network EPR NetworksThese concerns, about the potential cost to businesses, were published in September by the Environmental Services Association (ESA) and signed by 13 trade associations, which expressed ‘significant doubts’ about the proposed scheme. In its letter to central Government, the ESA warns that individual stakeholders are concerned packaging waste from businesses has not yet received enough consideration within the EPR scheme, and that recompensing of individual businesses within the initiative will be an overly complicated process.

The Waste Chairs state that proposals for regulating the collection of business waste needs to be appraised on the basis of wider civic interests, noting that the approach should be ‘‘broader than the economic viability of individual businesses and the interests of their shareholders.’ In their letter, they stress that commercial waste management must be done through the lens of supporting the municipal economy; as such, key priorities that are shared by both central and local government – such as Net Zero, air quality, waste crime, and environmental control – must take precedence.

They assert that, beyond delivering on these broader priorities, the most effective way to cut costs to businesses, and in turn the general population, is through the governmental support of locally administered commercial waste regulation. Rather seeking further discussion and associated delay, they note the current cycle of proposal and counter proposal is ‘simply expending precious time when already the mobilisation period remaining is under extreme pressure.’

The letter underscores the local government bodies’ view of the current inefficiencies of the waste and resource management system nationally, claiming that these will only be magnified by the implementation of EPR, deposit return schemes (DRS) and other business-focussed recycling initiatives if rolled out as currently planned. In spite of these concerns, however, there is support for Defra's move toward enhanced regulation, labelling it ‘an opportunity to increase efficiency to which waste collection business can adapt’.

While unambiguously taking a differing view, the signatories acknowledge the real concern conveyed by waste management companies of small to medium size in response to these shifts in regulation, offering reassurance that local authorities will take active steps to ensure that they thrive in the face of changing policy.

The Waste Network Chairs then goes on to outline three asks.

  • Governmental policy is to be ‘evidence-based’ and should draw on the extensive research conducted by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP).
  • The government must consider the economic activity that is universally beneficial and should refrain from prioritising the views of individual businesses interests over other businesses and stakeholders.
  • Any solutions that are pursued must be framed within the context of other key governmental policy, specifically Net Zero; local air quality; social equality; waste crime; and local environmental control.

The authors, representing the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning & Transport (ADEPT) Waste Group, the Association of London Cleansing Officers (ALCO), the London Environment Directors Network (LEDNET),the National Association of Waste Disposal Officers (NAWDO), the Local Government Technical Advisors Group (LGTAG) (Northern Ireland) and the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (LARAC) highlight the importance of digital solutions within an increasingly automated society, potential solutions should be both future-proofed and adaptable.

The chairs conclude noting that both public and private sectors ‘innovate best when the Government takes a timely lead to set the scope of the challenge.’