Criticism of Defra’s approach to waste management and recycling as well as the circular economy is gathering pace.
Both the Resource Association and the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management have again attacked Defra – the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – for a lack of leadership and ambition.
The criticisms also come in the wake of the offer by resource and recycling minister Rory Stewart for the sector to submit its ideas for the future.
Now, Resource Association chief executive Ray Georgeson is calling for Defra ministers and their officials to appear before a committee of MPs to explain their stance on the EU circular economy proposals, as well as to talk about the recently-published Defra departmental plan.
Last week Defra published its five-year plan which did not contain specific references to waste management apart from a pledge to keep up action on tackling waste crime.
However, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has, in its plan also published last week, emphasised that it is working with councils on refuse and recycling services. DCLG said: “We will continue to reduce budget ring-fencing and remove Whitehall burdens to give local authorities more flexibility to support local services”. And, the department said it could “give local authorities further financial certainty by offering a 4-year settlement to any council that wishes to plan ahead with confidence.”
Lacking in vision
In his ongoing criticism of Defra, CIWM chief executive Steve Lee said he was not surprised to see so little on waste in the department’s plans and accused it of lacking in vision. Mr Lee also called for “reassurance that Defra is adequately representing our sector’s views and interests at the negotiating table” on the circular economy package in Brussels.
However, in contrast to its stance on England’s approach, CIWM today praised Scotland’s announcement of its own circular economy package as a “thoughtful and pragmatic vision”.
Poking at Defra and its ministers, Mr Lee said of the Scottish government document: “And without wishing to labour a point made repeatedly by many in this sector, it also shows leadership, a government that is prepared to take action and provide funding support where it is in a position to do so.”
The Resource Association is taking its concerns one step further. Chief executive Ray Georgeson has written to Mary Creagh MP, chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, about the Defra Department Plan and the UK’s position on the EU’s circular economy package.
Referring to the Defra plan, Mr Georgeson writes: “We see the lack of reference to our industry as a major omission and it again raises serious concerns about the ambition for and interest of the Department in our industry. The only reference to our sector in the Plan is to work on waste crime which we have warmly welcomed – but this alone is insufficient recognition of the essential role of our industry, the legislation and targets which the Department is managing and the future proposals under the Circular Economy Package.”
And, he says linked to the concerns about the plan is a lack of transparency and clarity about the government’s negotiating position on the waste proposals in the package.
“We are led to understand by colleagues in the European Commission that the UK Government is taking negative positions on many of the proposals”
Ray Georgeson, chief executive
In his letter Mr Georgeson told Ms Creagh: “Although Defra have run a couple of stakeholder consultation events, there has been very little information forthcoming from Ministers or officials about their positions on various key aspects of the Package and new recycling targets. We are led to understand by colleagues in the European Commission that the UK Government is taking negative positions on many of the proposals and yet none of this has been properly shared or communicated with stakeholders at home.
“The reality is that, if this is true, then on many aspects of the Commission’s proposals it is quite possible that UK Government is not at all speaking for significant elements of the UK industry who see much merit in the more ambitious proposals coming from the Commission, even though detail needs to be worked upon. The same may be said of the probable attitude of the Scottish and Welsh Governments to the Commission’s proposals and I would be surprised if there wasn’t some disquiet from those quarters about the UK Government’s approach.”