7 January 2020 by Steve Eminton

Waiting game with consultations set to dominate 2020

In this latest blog, Steve Eminton ponders over what might actually happen in 2020 in terms of recycling and waste policy developments.


The year 2020 heralds significant change on the environmental front, not least in terms of recycling and waste management in the UK.

But, while the sector awaits delivery of promised EU legislation post-Brexit plus more consultations on the Environment Bill, there remains a danger that timelines could slip.

Already it appears that consultations are a few months away. Perhaps this is not surprising for the complexity of the issues involved is immense.

Firstly, huge sums of money running into many millions are at stake. This is because producers and retailers are going to have to pay pretty much the full net cost of recycling. However, before this money is handed over to councils so much needs to be sorted out, not least how much each local authority should receive.

Do those councils with high recycling rates need less financial support and instead should the money go to poor performers. The financial world’s finest producers of algorithms could well be tasked with working out a solution here.

Secondly, and linked to the full net cost system, is the UK’s PRN system structure. Big decisions will be made here over whether there is a large central body set up to oversee everything or do we continue with the decentralised and usually competitive approach that exists at present.

On consistency, councils have their concerns. Why bother to introduce food waste services over the next few years if eventually Defra will pay for everything. But, will they continue to pay after the service starts – this remains a thorny issue for a number of collection authorities.

The “can or can’t be recycled” system being introduced by OPR could push a few councils to start collecting more materials but in the short term there could be more confusion and disruption. It won’t solve the contamination issue with the real communications message needing to centre on keeping material clean and using the residual waste system for rubbish rather than the recycling bin or container.

So, for local authorities and the waste sector, don’t hold your breath that there will be swift answers to the new recycling system which the UK is likely to have in three, four or even five years’ time.

For now, contamination remains a challenge as does getting those recycling rates up.

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