Today’s 25 Year Environment Plan contains a pledge to work with the waste management industry to “significantly” boost the proportion of plastics collected for recycling. And, there are targets to cut waste crime and confirmation that a waste strategy will be published this year.
And, in the wake of the Defra-published government science report at Christmas, which did not favour burning plastics in energy from recovery plants, the Environment Plan also discusses reducing the volume of plastics going for incineration.
The Environment Plan was launched by the Prime Minister this morning (11 January) and it includes pledges to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste by 2042.
In the foreword to the plan, Environment Secretary Michael Gove said the government has made “significant progress” but warned there is a lot more to be done.
“The 25 Year Environment Plan that we have published today outlines the steps we propose to take to achieve our ambition.”
The 25 year plan includes plans to “take action” at each stage of a product lifecycle – production, consumption and end of life. At the production stage, the plan, produced by Defra, said it would “encourage” producers to take more responsibility for the environmental impacts of their products and rationalise the number of different types of plastic in use.
This includes working with industry to rationalise packaging formats and materials formats to make sure that more plastics can be easily recycled, as well as improving the quality of recycled plastics.
At the consumption stage, the government pledged to remove all consumer single use plastics from the central government estate offices, extend the 5p charge to smaller retailers and working with WRAP to introduce plastic-free supermarket isles.
At the end of use stage, there were pledges to work with the waste management industry and reprocessors to significantly increase the proportion of plastic packaging that is collected and recycled.
Other aspects of the 25 year plan included plans to improve the management of residual waste.
“We want to make sure that materials ending up in the residual waste stream are managed so that their full value as a resource is maximised and the impact on the environment of treating them is minimised,” the report said.
In order to do this, the government said it will explore different infrastructure options for managing residual waste beyond electricity, looking at ways to increase the use of heat produced at waste facilities and investigating ways to cut carbon dioxide emissions from EfW facilities by managing the amount of plastics in the residual waste stream.
The plan also contains the aim of eliminating waste crime and illegal waste sites by 2042.
The actions, Defra said it will take, include working with the industry to introduce electronic tracking of waste, development of a strategic approach to prevent, detect and deter waste crime as well as taking a “partner approach” with industry, regulators and local authorities.
It notes that the Environmental Services Association estimated that waste crime cost the UK economy between £568m and £808m in 2013; in 2015, it cost the English economy at least £604m. The cost to local authorities of clearing fly-tipped waste was £57.7 million in 2016/17, according to fly-tipping statistics from Defra. These figures do not take in the cost borne by other landowners forced to deal with illegal waste disposal.
“The Government is working to make the way we eat and drink in this country more sustainable. The aim is to cut by one fifth the greenhouse gas intensity of food and drink consumed in the UK, and also per capita UK food waste by 2025,” the report said when discussing its plan for food waste.
Among the actions taken to achieve this, the plan said that central government departments and their agencies will adopt the balanced scorecard approach to deliver benefits to the environment, consumers and businesses alike with regards to catering contracts.
There will also be funding available for “charities that redistribute surplus food from food businesses to those in need.”
The plans further outlined proposals to release a “resources and waste strategy” in 2018 aimed at making the UK “a world leader in resource efficiency”.
“It will set out our approach to reducing waste, promoting markets for secondary materials, incentivising producers to design better products and how we can better manage materials at the end of life by targeting environmental impacts,” the report stated.
This coincides with calls from recycling minister Thérèse Coffey for recycling targets to be based on resource efficiency as opposed to weight once the UK leaves the European Union (see letsrecycle.com story)
2019 Year of Green Action
Next year, the government will support the 2019 “year of green action” which include encouraging adults and children to take positive steps to help the natural environment.
“We expect 2019 to be the foundation of a five-year programme that will help turn the commitments in this 25 Year Environment Plan into action.”