Despite welcoming the government’s 25 year Environment Plan, the Environmental Services Association (ESA) has called for more work to stimulate the demand for recycled material.
Other industry bodies have also called for more to be done, despite welcoming the Plan.
The government released its 25 year Environment Strategy yesterday (January 11), in which there was a pledge to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste by 2042.
Other plans in the strategy include an extension of the 5p carrier bag charge to all retailers, plastic free aisles in supermarkets and working closer with industry to collect more plastic.
The ESA’s executive director Jacob Hayler explained that while the plan provided “much-needed encouragement to our industry”, it was too focused on consumers. He said: “A truly circular economy will only come about when there is a strong demand for recycled materials. If the Government wants to do more than tinker at the edges of recycling policy, it must act decisively to promote UK markets for recycled materials.
Mr Hayler added that the role of Energy from Waste and the “urgent” need for investment in new facilities should be considered when thinking about the waste that remains once efforts to recycle have been exhausted.
Today’s 25 Year Environment Plan also contained a pledge to work with the waste management industry to “significantly” boost the proportion of plastics collected for recycling.
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”.
CIWM said in a statement that the Prime Minister’s assertion that the state must play a key role in protecting the environment and developing new, green technologies is welcome.
“The stance that ‘where Government needs to intervene to ensure high standards are met, we will not hesitate to do so’, is very welcome. The sector must now engage fully and proactively with the Government to ensure that these ambitions are translated into meaningful actions and policy measures in the Resources and Waste Strategy that is promised towards the end of year.”
The Resource Association also welcomed the acknowledgement of the need to be “returning high quality materials back to the economy”. Its chief executive Ray Georgeson said: “we hope the Government keeps an open mind on the potential for a clearer, tighter regulatory approach where this may be genuinely useful and relies less on rethreads of voluntary agreements.”
In the plan, it was outlined how the government would take action on each step of a plastic product lifestyle, including working with the industry in production, consumption and end of life.
David Palmer-Jones, CEO of SUEZ recycling and recovery UK, explained that the plan places the environment at the heart of government strategy before adding that he feels it recognises the importance of sustainable growth to the UK economy post-Brexit.
He said: “The ambition to extend producer responsibility should look beyond plastics to develop a whole life-cycle approach, across a range of materials with good properties for reuse and recycling. We have long advocated the importance of data in transitioning to a more circular economy and support the government’s call for more available data to support industrial symbiosis and more circular approaches.”
LARAC also welcomed the publication of the Government Environment Plan, praising the “high level aims it sets out. However, is keen to seek clarification on the thinking behind the “comprehensive and frequent waste and recycling collections” that the Government states it is committed to.
Carole Taylor, Chair LARAC explained that “the publication of the Environment Plan is a “positive first step” on filling the policy vacuum that in the waste sector.
She added: “With the promise of a new Resource and Waste Strategy this year it is vital we get the details right and this means a root and branch reform of Producer Responsibility thinking in the UK and the channelling of much needed funds to councils to support household recycling. Without more funding, councils will struggle to deliver any new aspirations that the Government have.”
The Recycling Association also welcomed the Plan, but would like to be assured that this will be backed up by supportive policies to ensure it is delivered. Its chief executive, Simon Ellin says the industry has “been talking about driving improvements for many years” but warned that “simply having a vision” will not suffice. Mr Ellin said: “We need real and positive momentum to drive change. For this reason, we will continue to put pressure on the complete recycling supply chain to look for new solutions and do things differently. And that includes government.”
Andy Dobson, Operations Director for Total Recycling Services added: “Political support for addressing the issues of global plastic pollution is a welcome step – albeit in what appears to be a long-term vision. There is immediate work to be done in the short term and if the government genuinely want to achieve this desire to be global leaders in this field, we hope this is addressed sooner.”
5p bag charge
One of the major talking points from the Plan was the widening of the 5p plastic carrier bag charge, which will now include all retailers.
Previously, businesses with less than 250 employees were exempt from the charge.
Andrew Opie, director of food policy at the British Retail Consortium, the trade association for UK retailers, explained that the retail industry wants to see a holistic approach to the environment and resources. He said: “While plastic pollution needs to be tackled head on, we need a comprehensive strategy which considers all materials and resources and sets out how the Government intends to shift to a circular economy.”
This was echoed by Mary Creagh, chair of the environment committee, who said the abolition of not charging by small retailers is long overdue. “The small shop exemption was introduced by the government against the wishes of retailers, the more comprehensive the plastic bag charge is, the more effective it will be.”
Allison Ogden-Newton, chief executive of environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy was also pleased with the extension of the 5p bag charge saying she looks forward to seeing similar measures to reduce the impact of plastic bottles and coffee cups on the environment.
Shaun Spiers, executive director of Green Alliance, described Theresa May’s talk as “a landmark speech, the first prime ministerial speech on the environment for 17 years.” He added: “There was much to welcome. Inevitably, questions remain. While the ambition and sense of direction of the 25 Year Environment Plan launched today are admirable, it is less clear how all its good intentions will be put into effect.”
Martin Baxter, chief policy adviser at the IMEA added that the Plan could be a good sign for a “green Brexit”.
He said: “The Government has promised a Green Brexit, with the UK free to take the best from Brussels and build on this to create a world leading green economy and environment. This is the right ambition, setting us apart from a race to the bottom that would only end badly for the UK.”