New approach to green public procurement among industry’s Budget wishes

Tomorrow’s Budget should reflect the waste and resources industry’s potential to aid economic growth, with green public procurement on the wishlists of two prominent industry associations.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond will give his first budget since succeeding George Osborne in the role last summer. This will also be the last Spring budget before the annual announcement of tax changes and government spending is moved to the autumn.

New approach to green public procurement among industry’s Budget wishes No mention was waste was made in Hammond’s Autumn Statement last year, made a few months into Theresa May’s government, though he announced that Brexit had slowed growth forecasts for the UK and made it “more urgent than ever” to address long-term economic weaknesses.

The government published a green paper in January setting out an industrial strategy that would improve living standards and economic growth by increasing productivity and driving growth. The paper noted the contribution that the waste and resources industry could make to this growth, saying that the government will ‘work with stakeholders to explore opportunities to reduce raw material demand and waste in our energy and resource systems, and to promote well-functioning markets for secondary materials, and new disruptive business models that challenge inefficient practice’.

The Environmental Services Association (ESA) is calling on the government to follow this recognition of the industry’s potential with a place in the budget and for the Treasury to ‘provide leadership in waste and resource policy to drive resource efficiency and boost UK productivity’.

Uncertainty over the impact of Brexit on the industry, as well as the difficulty of maintaining secondary material markets and budget cuts to local authorities   means that the industry, which has been waiting for a long-delayed 25-year environmental plan for over a year, is in need of policy leadership from the government. The Environmental Audit Committee, Parliament’s green watchdog, has also criticised the Treasury’s short-term influence over other departments’ sustainability plans.

Green public procurement on ESA Budget wishlist

Looking ahead to Hammond’s unveiling of the new Budget, ESA’s Executive Director Jacob Hayler said: “We hope the government recognises the potential of the waste and resource industry in tomorrow’s Budget, as well as the urgent challenges we face.

“With recycling rates going backwards and investment in new treatment capacity insufficient to replace closing landfills, the industry needs the Budget to help set a clear direction for waste and resources that enables us to plan and invest for the future.”

The ESA, the trade association representing the UK’s resource and waste management industry, says that to help the UK meet its environmental ambitions at minimum cost whilst boosting UK competitiveness, there are four areas in particular that the government should focus on, suggesting the Treasury should: 

  • explore reforming current extended producer responsibility (EPR) schemes to make producers responsible for the end of life of their products, whilst relieving cash-strapped councils of the pressures of rising waste management costs;
  • continue to support the Environment Agency and HMRC to tackle waste crime;
  • consider introducing green public procurement rules in favour of recycled materials to boost recycling in the UK; and
  • provide long term certainty that landfill tax will remain at current real levels to help the industry plan and build for the future.

Hayler said: “These measures will help unlock much-needed investment in our industry which will enable us to deliver green economic growth and thousands of new jobs across the country.”

Industry is ‘the roots and foundation of the economy’

The Resource Association (RA), which represents recyclers and reprocessors, agrees that support for the industry should reflect its potential to assist the economy’s growth.

Ray Georgeson, Chief Executive of the RA, said: “We would like to hear the Chancellor acknowledge that British manufacturing and resources industries remain an important part of the future economy and will need attention and support in the same way that more prominent sectors receive from government. 

“In many ways, our work is the roots and foundation of the economy, as well as having such strong potential to grow and evolve into a more resource-efficient and employment-intensive circular economy with the right package of measures, incentives and regulation from government.  Early, simple measures could go a long way towards easing pre-Brexit uncertainty for our industry and boosting the prospects for delivering the reversal of declining recycling rates in England.”

The RA also has provided a wishlist for Hammond’s announcement, which, like the ESA’s, includes a new stance on green public procurement. The RA would like to see:

  • Action to require greater transparency reporting of the end destination of recycling collected by councils and industry, to refresh public confidence in the recycling process and improve participation rates; and
  • Modest revisions to the Packaging Recovery Notes (PRN and PERN) system to level the playing field in favour of UK reprocessing;
  • A new approach to green public procurement to more systematically favour the utilisation of recycled content to draw through more recycled material into products.”

Georgeson concluded: “There is plenty more we could call for, but if the Chancellor delivered all of this tomorrow he would make me and many others in our industry very happy indeed.  I always remain optimistic, but that said, I’m not expecting to be cracking open the champagne tomorrow.”

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