EFRA Committee takes evidence in waste inquiry

Members of the waste and resources sector will today (11 June), give evidence to the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee on existing approaches to the recycling and treatment of municipal waste in England, and ‘the impact of the reduction of the Defra’s [the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs] activities in municipal waste management’.

The first evidence session of the inquiry, taking place this afternoon (3pm), will see Steve Lee, Chief Executive of the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM); Jacob Hayler, Economist at the Environmental Services Association (ESA); and Phil Barton, Chief Executive of Keep Britain Tidy (KBT), deliver their thoughts on waste management in England and what effect, if any, Defra’s decision to ‘step back’ from creating new waste policy will have.

According to the CIWM Journal, Lee will outline how there is likely to be increasing exports of industrial and commercial waste, due to a lack of domestic treatment capacity, and will: advise government to make the use of the Electronic Duty of Care (edoc) system mandatory; push government to advise the European Union to create ‘common and effective data gathering and reporting for this industry across Europe’; and warn that changes to regulations regarding material recovery facilities (MRF) and the separated collection of wastes, coupled with ‘tight biowaste recycling standards and other exclusions from the definition of recycling’ may drive reported English recycling for municipal sold waste ‘backwards for the first time since before the turn of the century’. Indeed, the most recent data to come out of Defra regarding England’s recycling rate showed that it is already falling.

Inquiry details

The waste management inquiry was launched by the EFRA Committee after Resource Minister Dan Rogerson wrote to members of the waste and resources industry in December 2013 warning them that, from April 2014, Defra would be ‘stepping back’ from some of its waste policy work.

In his first official address to the industry, Rogerson outlined that due to funding cuts, government had been ‘reassessing Defra’s activities on waste management for 2014/15 to focus on the essentials that only Government can and must do’.

As such, Rogerson said that ‘from April 2014’ Defra will ‘not have the capacity to take forward new policy work in areas such as commercial and industrial waste and construction and demolition waste, as well as proactive energy from waste policy development’.

In light of this, in March 2014, EFRA launched an inquiry into the impacts this may have on municipal waste management in England, calling on members of the industry to submit written evidence on the following issues:

  • the ability of existing recycling policy measures to ensure that England reaches the EU target of recycling 50 per cent of household waste by 2020;
  • whether England’s national recycling targets should be higher than those stipulated by the EU;
  • the pros and cons of compulsory household waste recycling;
  • the role of businesses and households in municipal waste recycling and recovery;
  • whether England has the right balance of waste treatment technologies between anaerobic digestion, incineration with energy recovery and gasification to produce fuel/heat/power;
  • the extent to which increasing the capacity of thermal treatment plants could impact England’s municipal waste recycling rates;
  • whether anaerobic digestion is the best option available to deal with food and other biowaste;
  • whether the government’s Anaerobic Digestion Strategy and Action Plan has substantially increased the use of AD; and
  • the feasibility of the introduction of a ban on landfill and/or incineration in England.

Read more about the EFRA Committee inquiry into waste management in England, or watch the evidence session live on Parliament TV at 3pm.

EAC circular economy inquiry

Also today, the Environmental Audit Committe (EAC) will be taking evidence from members of the industry, European politicians and retailers about how the UK (and other countries) can boost the circular economy.

The 'Growing a Circular Economy' inquiry will hear from Lee and Barton – as well as Janez Potocnik, European Commissioner for the Environment, (via video link); Dominic Hogg, Chairman of Eunomia Research and Consulting; and Councillor Clyde Loakes, Environment and Housing Board Vice Chairman for the Local Government Association – on whether it is possible to de-couple economic growth from natural resource use and the role that household recycling and the waste management sector plays in the circular economy.

The third evidence session started this morning at 9.30am, with the fourth scheduled to take place at 2.15pm this afternoon.

Both sessions can be watched via Parliament TV.