Figures from across the waste and recycling industry have all welcomed the appointment of George Eustice as Environment Secretary, expressing optimism that his time spent as a Defra minister will serve him well.
Mr Eustice was named as secretary of state yesterday afternoon (14 February) as part of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s re-shuffle. He has been a farming minister at Defra since 2013 with a short gap last year when he resigned during the Brexit discussions.
While having focused farming and fishing, a year ago Mr Eustice welcomed government measures to “overhaul the waste system” ahead of the 2019 consultation.
“Having comprehensive and frequent collections will ensure more reliable services for householders while retaining local flexibility,” he said at the time.
And, he has spoken strongly about ‘plastic pollution’, saying last year: “We’ve all seen the damage that plastic can do to our environment. Plastic packaging accounts for up to two-thirds of all the plastic waste that pollutes this country and wreaks havoc on our environment. It is right that we put in place measures that will simplify waste collections and reduce the amount of waste thrown away.”
Jacob Hayler, executive director of the Environmental Services Association, said his role within Defra will enable him to get off to a fast start.
“With the appointment of George Eustice, Defra is getting a leader with experience who has spent significant time with the department, and who should be able to hit the ground running,” he commented.
Mr Hayler added: “Defra is in need of consistent and strong leadership at a critical time for the natural environment; to guide the Environment Bill through Parliament; and to get the Government’s vital Resources & Waste Strategy delivered”.
“Defra is getting a leader with experience who has spent significant time with the department”
Commenting from the waste management business Suez, chief executive John Scanlon said: “Mr Eustice’s long and proven track record as a minister working with Defra and in energy and environment policy teams, sends a clear and welcome message that the Government is intent upon realising its environmental ambition.
“Defra is at the forefront of the Government’s drive to help the UK become carbon-neutral by 2050 and we look forward to playing our part in that ambition, helping Government deliver on the final stages of its Resources and Waste Strategy. Core to this is its three-pronged approach of Extended Producer Responsibility schemes Deposit Return schemes and consistent collections.”
The short term of Theresa Villiers, Mr Eustice’s predecessor in the Defra post, was highlighted by Ray Georgeson, the former chief executive of the Resource Association and candidate for the Liberal Democrats in Bishop Auckland.
Villiers’ tenure at Defra so short and inconsequential she hadn’t even had time to write me a perfunctory acknowledgement of my letter welcoming her to the post & setting out some areas for policy action 😀♻️ #reshuffle #recycle
— Ray Georgeson (@raygeorgeson) February 13, 2020
Meanwhile, Signe Norberg, public affairs manager at the London-based thinktank, the Aldersgate Group, said that with a “rejuvenated” ministerial team, the government needs to turn its attention to the environment agenda.
“With COP26 only nine months away, the UK can host the summit in a position of strength by putting forward a clear policy plan for delivering its net zero emissions target, progressing its Environment Bill and developing a trade policy that is consistent with its climate and environmental ambitions,” she said.
Mr Eustice will now oversee the Environment Bill’s passage through parliament, with a raft of further consultations expected later in the summer.