R&WUK launches resources manifesto
Resources & Waste UK (R&WUK), a new ‘voice’ for the waste and resource management industry comprising members of the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM) and the Environmental Services Association (ESA), has today (29 May) released a manifesto outlining the key actions it wishes the new UK government to take forward.
The ‘Sustainable resource and waste: priorities for the new UK government’ report states that resource and waste management is ‘a dynamic and growing sector in the UK, with the potential to underpin and secure sustainable economic growth across the whole economy’. As such, it argues that the new government should ‘play their full part in delivering a more resource efficient and resource secure economy whilst protecting people, the environment and future generations’.
Six areas of action
R&WUK goes on to outline six ‘key’ policy areas that require government action:
Supporting and improving waste collection and recycling performance
In order to meet the current European target of recycling 50 per cent of household waste by 2020, R&WUK says that the ‘immediate focus’ for the new government should be on municipal recycling and improved support for business waste recycling. It argues that this could be done by a range of actions, including:
- ensuring local government has adequate resources to meet all waste and resource management responsibilities and central government expectations;
- consulting on the potential benefit of reintroducing statutory local government household waste recycling or landfill diversion targets;
- reviewing potential opportunities for further efficiencies to be achieved through increased harmonisation of collections services;
- introducing pilot ‘pay-as-you-throw’ schemes for household waste to test the validity and potential impact of its broader introduction;
- supporting the increased roll-out of separate food waste collections and improvement in capture rates; and
- potentially proposing statutory business waste collections – as is already done in Scotland.
Improving the climate for investment in circular economy infrastructure to deliver sustainable growth and jobs
The report notes that the UK is still currently ‘landfilling over 17 million tonnes of mixed waste, exporting around 2.5 million tonnes of waste derived fuels to other parts of the EU, and [is] in danger of stagnating in terms of recycling, re-use, and waste prevention’.
It states that to boost the move to a circular economy and support growth, government could, amongst other options, consider:
- strengthening strategic planning for waste and all secondary materials, for example by including waste in the National Infrastructure Plan;
- issuing a call for evidence on the design, operation, costs and benefits of landfill bans or restrictions across the EU to inform policy development on this style of intervention across the UK;
- exploring additional financial support and derisking mechanisms to encourage service and infrastructure provision to meet any capacity shortfalls – including a full review of the role, funding and performance of the Green Investment Bank;
- using its first Finance Act to introduce new tax allowances for waste infrastructure expenditure to offset the loss to the industry of industrial building allowances; and
- amending the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme to exempt recycling, sorting and reprocessing industries.
Boosting domestic demand and markets for recycled materials
According to R&WUK, the UK and Europe need a strong demand for recycled material to feed the manufacturing sector as part of a green reindustrialisation of the EU. It argues that a ‘thriving domestic market for UK recyclates would support domestic reprocessing capacity and enable more of the value of these secondary materials to the manufacturing supply chain to be captured within our borders’.
To do this, it states government could:
- increase the specifications for recycled content and products in government buying standards;
- issue a call for evidence to explore options for varying excise duties on products depending on their recycled content;
- introduce measures to incentivise the use of recycled content in packaging (i.e. by reducing the size of the packaging recovery note obligation for those packaging manufacturers which use recycled content);
- support mechanisms to provide more stable secondary materials markets and to spread future materials price risks across the supply chain to encourage development of infrastructure, services and markets; and
- review the effectiveness of voluntary agreements as a mechanism for driving sustainable behaviour in the supply chain.
Creating the right regulatory balance between hitting waste criminals hard and encouraging legitimate businesses in the industry
The ESA has previously estimated the economic impact of waste crime to exceed £500 million.
It argues that to crack down on waste crime, the new government should:
- explore measures to shift the cost of regulation firmly towards persistent poor performers in the industry and reward good practice and raise standards through monitoring, compliance and permit charge schemes;
- continue to financially support waste crime units within UK regulators and give them full cost recovery abilities;
- strengthen local authority powers to address waste crime, i.e. via fixed penalties and surveillance powers; and
- explore the use of targeted financial assessments and guarantees to protect the environment and public purse from illegal waste management and abandonment.
Delivering coherent resources and waste policy across governmental departments and between the four UK governments
The manifesto goes on to state that it is ‘essential’ that the government ‘recognises that the management and husbandry of both primary and secondary resources is critical to both the UK’s economic and environmental wellbeing in the long term’.
To this end, it calls on government to:
- appoint a clear ‘policy lead’ department and minister to coordinate resource policy and action;
- commit to produce a new Waste Strategy for England, informed by an independent Stern-style review on resources and an assessment of the value and availability of secondary materials as an economic advantage to UK plc; and
- develop and expand the national Waste Prevention Plan to strengthen the policy focus at the top of the hierarchy, including reuse and remanufacturing.
Engaging positively in policy development for resources and wastes at a European level
Following on from the European Commission’s public consultation on its revised Circular Economy Package, the group is urging the new government to help shape that package and bring forward the circular economy agenda in the UK.
It states that government should, amongst other options:
- confirm that it supports the role of EU-level environmental policy and regulation and will actively engage in the development, monitoring and further review of the EU Circular Economy Package;
- develop a coherent and positive position on the future EU Circular Economy Package;
- require fair and consistent data standards, metrics and reporting under all appropriate EU-driven targets to allow realistic comparison between member states;
- argue for the introduction of longer-term financial instruments to drive behaviour change on resource consumption across the whole supply chain; and
- support the development and monitoring of improvement plans for member states that cannot meet the EU’s various targets.
‘Failure to act could have serious long-term consequences for the UK’s resources and waste sector’
Releasing the manifesto report earlier today, R&WUK Chief Executive Steve Lee commented: “The resources and waste management sector is dynamic and fast growing, and has a huge contribution to make to the UK economy both in terms of jobs and in supporting UK plc to become more resource efficient and competitive. However, if we are to truly make the transition from ‘waste’ to ‘resource management’, many of the drivers and mechanisms need to be implemented at a European level.
“The circular economy consultation, published yesterday, is the start of a new policy framework that will hopefully drive progress towards a more resource-efficient future, with all the potential economic and environmental benefits this could bring. Regardless of the ‘Brexit’ debate, it is essential that the new UK government develops and articulates a coherent and positive response that reflects the opinion of all four UK countries.”
ESA Executive Director Jacob Hayler added: “Local government funding for recycling is, and will continue to be, squeezed; UK reprocessing capacity is being buffeted by global market trends; the investment landscape for new waste infrastructure remains challenging; and the strategic planning necessary to ensure that the UK extracts the maximum material and energy value from its waste is not happening in a holistic way. Failure to act on waste crime and turning our back on Europe’s role in driving resource efficiency and a more circular economic approach could also have serious longer-term consequences for the UK’s resources and waste sector.”
Read the ‘Sustainable resource and waste: priorities for the new UK government’ report.