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Environmental Plan welcomed but some concern over waste

The ambition shown in the government’s Environmental Improvement plan has been broadly welcomed by figures from across the industry, but some have said the plan featured “little new” with regards to waste.

EPR packaging
The government reiterated its commitment to introduce EPR for packaging from 2024, and targets for waste (picture: Shutterstock)

Published yesterday (31 January), the document builds on the 25 Year Environment Plan, which was issued in 2018 and covered topics including waste and resources, air quality and nature.

Some of the targets confirmed in the revision document were the introduction of the extended producer responsibility (EPR) system for packaging “from 2024” and achieving a municipal recycling rate of at least 65% by 2035.

The document also mentioned “mandatory digital waste tracking” and a possible ban on sending biodegradable waste to landfill from 2028 (see letsrecycle.com story).

The announcement has been welcomed by many in the sector, including the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM), the Environment Agency and a range of campaign groups, as well as waste management firm Suez.

Complementing policies

The CIWM’s policy and external affairs director Lee Marshall said the CIWM is “reassured” by the Prime Minister’s statement that the Plan has the highest level of government support.

Lee Marshall is CIWM’s policy and external affairs director

Mr Marshall commented: “The plan to introduce interim reduction targets for 2028 for certain types of waste, including plastic, glass, metal, paper, and food, is welcome news and they have been set at challenging levels.

“It is important that all policies related to resources and waste complement each other so that we can successfully move to world beyond waste. These targets will therefore need to be viewed through the lens of other policy initiatives in this area, such pEPR, DRS and, of course, consistent collections in England.”

He also added that the proposal to launch a call for evidence to support the development of a plan to achieve the near elimination of biodegradable municipal waste going to landfill from 2028 is an “interesting policy development”.

‘Ambitious plan’

Elsewhere, Tony Juniper, the chair of Natural England, emphasised the need for an ambitious and integrated plan to take effective action against the environmental challenges.

“That plan and those targets are now live. The package is broad and most welcome and important. It will now require efforts across government and across society to translate its intent into action,” Mr Juniper explained.

Alan Lovell, chairman of the Environment Agency

The government announcement also included a response from the Environment Agency’s chairman Alan Lovell. Mr Lovell outlined that it provided input to the plan and will play a “major role” in delivering it through its work on flooding, protection and enhancement of nature and through regulation, monitoring and enforcement.

‘Essential’

Meanwhile, Nick Molho, executive director at the Aldersgate Group, an alliance championing an environmentally sustainable economy, also features as part of the government’s announcement.

Mr Molho highlighted that “rapidly restoring nature and reversing its decline is essential for economic prosperity, the wellbeing of society and the UK’s ability to adapt to climate change”.

“The government must now build on the objectives and policy commitments contained in the delivery plan and proceed at pace with the specific policy measures that will drive private investment over the next 5 years in biodiversity, air and water quality, resource efficiency and other key environmental improvements.

“Providing clarity on the near- and long-term policy commitments is essential to unlock significant private sector investment and ensure businesses play their part in restoring nature,” he added.

Food waste

Pamela Woolcock, group public sector lead at BioteCH4, also welcomed the publication of the plan, with confirmation local authorities will be mandated to collect food waste from 2025. Ms Woolcock pointed out that household food waste is responsible for 5.4% of the UK’s territorial emissions.

“There is very little that is new in relation to the way we manage waste and resources in the UK.”


Dr Adam Read, chief external affairs and sustainability officer
Suez

“While 2025 is still two years away, effective public procurement to ensure councils achieve best value for their residents takes time and we would urge local authorities to act quickly to start to understand what a successful contract looks like and therefore who is their best partner,” she advised.

‘Disappointed’

On the other hand, Dr Adam Read, chief external affairs and sustainability officer for SUEZ UK, said that the delivery plan for reducing waste and maximising resources “has felt us somewhat disappointed”.

“There is very little that is new in relation to the way we manage waste and resources in the UK – the delivery plan references the reforms to extended producer responsibility, consistent collections and a deposit return scheme that have been underway now for two years, and the new programme to maximise resources and minimise waste could well be a repackaged version of the draft waste prevention plan consulted on last year,” he outlined.

“To truly move the dial, we need to re-think consumer habits and a potentially game-changing target for resource productivity was a notable omission from the document.”

On a similar note, Environmental Audit Committee chairman, Rt Hon Philip Dunne MP, noted that “the targets are only worthwhile if they are met and have the backing of all departments across government: urgent delivery is crucial this decade”.

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