Is Brexit making recycling too hot to handle?

Neil Grundon, deputy chairman of Grundon Waste Management, calls for a co-ordinated approach to new ideas.

Neil Grundon is deputy chairman of Grundon Waste Management

The Brexit debacle gets the blame for many things these days and recently the food and drink industry weighed in by calling for a delay in consultations with the government about anything other than the big event itself.


Neil Grundon, deputy chairman, Grundon Waste Management

Organisations including the Food and Drink Federation, the British Meat Processors Association and the Packaging Federation, all combined to make a plea to put plans on the back burner for a consistent national recycling collection service for food waste and a bottle deposit return scheme for England and Wales.

They also wanted to delay an overhaul of the current Producer Responsibility programme the Packaging Recovery Note (PRN) system, and proposals for a tax on plastic items with less than 30% recycled content.


In a letter to Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary Michael Gove, the signatories say that both businesses throughout the UK food chain – and their trade associations – are totally focused on working to mitigate what they call the “catastrophic impact of a no-deal Brexit”.

And, they add that the large amounts of time, money, people and effort being diverted to deal with the likely issues mean they do not have the resources to respond to the various consultations announced by the government.


Given what is (or isn’t) happening with Brexit, I really hope that they change their minds.

There must be an argument for a consistent approach to food waste collections nationwide, it is ridiculous that households weigh down their black bins with unwanted food, when it could be sent to Anaerobic Digestion to be turned into green energy and bio-fertiliser.

And rather than lobbying globally for what would inevitably be a 5p or 10p rise on the cost of a bottle of pop (other drinks are available), perhaps the drinks industry could focus its efforts on working with stakeholders to identify something more 21st Century, like a digital reward?

As some of these industry body members are among the biggest companies operating on a global scale, I struggle with the fact that Brexit has paralysed them into not considering anything else on the table.


In the waste industry we have our own Brexit-related issues to manage, not least the export of Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) to the Continent, where it feeds Europe’s Energy from Waste (EfW) facilities instead of generating our own home-grown electricity. But that’s a different story.

My point is that the food and drink industry is not alone in battling the dos and don’ts of what Brexit means, whether it’s deal or no-deal.

We cannot afford to shelve every other matter of importance and I implore these organisations to think again.

“We all have an opportunity to make a difference – to take control.”

Neil Grundon
Grundon Waste Management

You could argue that for them it was much easier when the EU was in charge of waste and recycling, as years of lobbying the Brussels bureaucrats could effectively deliver no change whatsoever.


Now however, we all have an opportunity to make a difference – to take control. And, as specialists in the waste sector, we are happy to help the government rewrite the recycling rules with or without the food and drink industry’s input.

What I would much rather do however, is work with them to ensure that we end up with a system which does right by the sector, right by the environment and, most importantly, works for the public who will need to embrace it.

So can we please put these items back on the menu sooner rather than later.

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