The Government’s Environment Bill is the “shake-up” needed to boost recycling rates and tackle plastics pollution in the UK, according to waste and recycling giant Veolia.
The company made the comments today (October 15) as the Bill was due to be officially laid in parliament after being set out in yesterday’s Queen’s Speech.
Veolia’s comments come after many in the sector yesterday broadly welcomed the prospect of the Bill (see letsrecycle.com story), which will include enabling powers to introduce more producer responsibility for waste, more consistent recycling collections, tackling waste crime and a bottle deposit return scheme.
Richard Kirkman, chief technology and innovation office at Veolia, said: “Today the Government put its environmental cards on the table and not a moment too soon. The public have spoken and this is the shake-up our system needed to boost business and household recycling and tackle plastics pollution.”
Mr Kirkman suggested that a “carbon tax” would be a good next step.
He said: “The tide is turning and businesses are taking plastics reduction seriously. The next stage would be the introduction of a carbon tax to accelerate our journey to zero-carbon before 2050.”
Further responses to the Bill being laid came today from packaging firm DS Smith, recycling company SUEZ UK, the Local Government Association (LGA) and Friends of the Earth.
A common theme amongst respondents was the need for extended producer responsibility for waste to be properly implemented and for any new measures to be adequately funded.
David Palmer-Jones, chief of SUEZ recycling and recovery UK, described the Bill as “an enabler” to follow commitments made in the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan to shift the costs of collecting and handling waste back to the producer.
He said: “We hope that the Government selects a system of extended producer responsibility (EPR) principles delivered by the most appropriate governance model that delivers near 100% full net cost recovery and provides the required incentives and stability in the value chain for producing, handling, processing and recovering materials.”
He added: “All links in that value chain can then invest with confidence in the new systems and facilities to improve the nation’s recycling performance.”
Mr Palmer-Jones said extended producer responsibility was important to help deliver clearer labelling of goods, more consistency in recycling collections and even a deposit return scheme for plastic bottles and cans.
The LGA – which represents council leaders – also said the government needed to ensure that producers pay the full cost of recycling.
“We look forward to working with government to implement this legislation” >Peter Clayson, DS Smith
The LGA’s environment spokesman, Cllr David Renard, said: “We will work with the Government to ensure that the Environment Bill and Office for Environmental Protection is effective in addressing the concerns of communities.”
He added: “To help councils increase recycling rates, manufacturers need to use packaging that is fully and easily recyclable and government needs to ensure producers pay the full cost of recycling packaging. More importantly, manufacturers need to reduce waste at the point of source to stop unnecessary and unrecyclable material becoming an issue in the first place.”
In the paper sector, the ambition of the Bill was welcomed by packaging giant DS Smith, the UK’s biggest paper and card recycler.
Peter Clayson, head of government affairs at DS Smith, said the Bill has the “potential” to create a genuine circular system which “safeguarded the quality” of materials like paper.
He commented: “In particular we are pleased to note this Bill places the transformation of our waste management system at the forefront of this government’s agenda”, adding that “Despite the ongoing uncertainty around Brexit, we look forward to working with government to implement this legislation”.
However Mr Clayson said that more needed to be done “to increase investment and implement a consistent system which rewards good recyclable design and allows consumers to successfully participate as part of their everyday recycling efforts.”
Friends of the Earth described the Bill as “encouraging” but said it remained to be seen if it would translate into action.
Dave Timms, head of political affairs at Friends of the Earth said: “It’s encouraging to see headline commitments on issues such as plastics, air pollution and natural restoration, but it remains to be seen if the frameworks set out in this ‘flagship’ bill will have the clout to fulfil the government’s ‘world leading’ ambitions.
“The climate crisis is the biggest threat we face – the government’s commitment to tackling it will be judged on its action, not words.”