If implemented “correctly” the environmental legislation proposed in the Queen’s Speech could see millions of pounds invested by the waste and resource and wider sector, the Environmental Services Association has declared.
Commenting on the Queen’s Speech (delivered on 14 October 2019), and which served to herald the government’s proposed Environment Bill, the ESA’s executive director, Jacob Hayler said: “We welcome the prominence of environmental protection in the legislative agenda for the next session of Parliament, as set out in the Queen’s Speech today.
“If implemented correctly, a new Environmental Bill could unlock billions in new investment in the UK by the environmental services sector which, in turn, will help Government deliver on its ambitious plans to reduce waste; preserve natural resources; tackle the scourge of litter polluting our natural environment; and tackle waste crime – among wider environmental goals related to air quality, nature and water preservation and CO2 reduction. “
Mr Hayler added that under the resources and waste strategy, “major new reforms are coming which will have a profound impact on producers and the way things are made; how we collect materials when they are discarded; how we treat those materials and how waste services are funded. This will require major change and investment from the environmental services sector and the Environment Bill must provide the new legislative framework which will underpin this next phase of investment.”
Among ESA members, Biffa and Suez were quick to welcome the Speech, albeit with calls for action.
The view from Biffa was that the re should be a ban on the export of waste plastics for recycling.
Jeff Rhodes, head of environment and external affairs at Biffa, explained: ““We welcome the measures related to waste and plastics in the new environment bill announced by the government today. These matters needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency. However, we are disappointed at the lack of ambition in the Government’s present plans – they do not go far enough.
“Biffa has called for a ban on the export of waste plastics for recycling overseas so that all plastics are instead recycled domestically in the UK to restore public confidence in recycling and boost UK jobs and investment. We also need to phase out problem plastics, such as black plastics and ‘bio’ plastics, and make sure necessary plastic packaging is as recyclable as possible. This will require a commitment to further invest in the UK recycling infrastructure which is long overdue.”
Resource use and consumption were issues highlighted by David Palmer-Jones, CEO of SUEZ recycling and recovery UK.
He said: “Plans under the Environment Bill to deal with plastic waste and pollution are to be commended, but these must come hand-in-hand with radical societal reform of our consumption and resource use.
“Producer responsibility schemes, as envisaged by the government’s Resources and Waste Strategy, are an essential tool to ensure we move, as a nation, from a throw-away society to a reuse-and-recycle based economy that gives new lives to products we consume – which must go hand-in-hand with efforts to minimise our overall consumption of the planet’s finite resources.
“An ad hoc, piecemeal, approach to meeting society’s collective challenge to consume fewer virgin materials, and to recycle more, simply won’t deliver the systemic changes needed to deliver on the praiseworthy ambitions of the Environment Act.”
Mr Palmer-Jones added: “Greater producer and consumer responsibility plays a significant role in reducing our reliance on non-renewable resources. We look to the Environment Act to help give new momentum to the clear economic and environmental case for the greater production of secondary raw materials.”
The UK Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association (ADBA) welcomed the environmental pledges made in today’s Queen’s Speech.
ADBA’s chief executive Charlotte Morton said: “We welcome the proposals outlined in the Queen’s Speech for new legislation implementing legally binding environmental targets, and a new regulator to police and enforce them. We would encourage Ministers to give this regulator real teeth to ensure we meet our Net Zero by 2050 commitments, and ensure that anaerobic digestion and its products are recognised as a critical part of this – it alone can reduce the UK’s total emissions by 5% and is a technology which is here today.”
A retail view came from the British Retail Consortium which stated that retailers are acting on reducing “unnecessary plastic”.
“It is essential that such measures are rolled out across the whole of the UK. This way consumers know which packaging can be recycled whether they’re in Lands’ End or John o’ Groats.”
The BRC said: “We welcome the Government’s commitment to sustainability, and support efforts towards a circular, zero-waste economy in the UK. We were particularly encouraged by measures to improve the consistency of recycling schemes in England, however, it is essential that such measures are rolled out across the whole of the UK. This way consumers know which packaging can be recycled whether they’re in Lands’ End or John o’ Groats.
“Retailers have been leading the charge to reduce unnecessary plastic in their stores, and to boost recycling rates through clear on-pack recycling labels. Retailers know they have a responsibility to contribute more directly towards the costs of recycling and recovering packaging through a reformed Extended Producer Responsibility scheme. Once these changes are in place, the Government should assess how a DRS can be used to plug any remaining gaps without disrupting the ability of consumers to recycle in the home.”