17 December 2018 by Steve Eminton

Gove to face Creagh after resources strategy launch

Secretary of state for the environment, Michael Gove is to be questioned in Parliament this week on the new Resources and Waste Strategy, just 24 hours after it is published.

The strategy is out tomorrow (18 December) and will contain wide ranging proposals covering measures around waste prevention, reuse and recycling. On Wednesday Mr Gove has been summoned by Mary Creagh MP, the forthright chair of the Environmental Audit Committee to face questions from her committee over the strategy as well as resources and waste planning in general.

The Resources and Waste Strategy (RWS) is expected to be focused around circular economy principles and promote waste prevention measures, more reuse and greater recycling. Energy from waste is also expected to be recognised in the strategy, but it will focus more on recycling rather than encouraging more incineration.

Creagh and Gove

(l-r) Mary Creagh, (Labour) chair of the Environmental Audit Committee and Michael Gove, Secretary of State for the Environment

Star features of the RWS will include the roll-out of food waste collections to more householders in the UK, plans for significant reform of the packaging waste/PRN system and actions for local authorities including the idea of more joint working.

Completion of the RWS, which has been described by those close to the work as “exciting, thorough and ambitious”, is seen as a major achievement for civil servants in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs after previous weak approaches to recycling, which even saw a Defra minister (Dan Rogerson) dismiss involvement in the sector.

Weekly food waste

The increase in food waste roll-out is likely to see more weekly residual waste collections terminated with in contrast a food waste service expected to be provided weekly by most local authorities. This will mark a major change in approach from government where support from former DCLG secretary of state Eric Pickles for weekly waste collections had dominated thinking.

Also expected in the RWS are measures on retailers and manufacturers to voluntarily reduce the amount of single use plastics – plans are already in place from 2022 for a tax on plastic packaging that does not have a 30% minimum recycled content.

DRS

Various ways for implementing a deposit return (DRS) for single-use drinks containers will be summarised in the strategy for a subsequent consultation. This is likely to prove one of the more controversial areas of the strategy because of the potential impact on local authority kerbside collections. Previously, on DRS, recycling minister Therese Coffey has said: “The intention of the DRS will be … one to increase recycling but also to reduce littering. So it’s a mixture of whether people do it on the go, whether they save their bottles potentially to do at their supermarket shop or to put in their kerbside recycling.

“The intention of the DRS will be … one to increase recycling but also to reduce littering.”


Therese Coffey
Recycling and resources minister
(speaking in September)

“The general outcome we want to get is to make it as easy as possible to do the right thing for the environment for the goods that they purchase.  It is still to be worked out but you could image that a council actually pays back a household back for bottles they pick up on their behalf or it could be donated to the council to help keep down your council charges.”

Councils and commodities

Local authorities are also expected to be encouraged to have more involvement in taking benefit from the value of the secondary raw materials they collect (including waste paper and cans) with the idea of a commodity exchange to be developed. However, the importance of quality of materials for recycling will also be spelt although whether Defra will actually more of a requirement on local authorities to generate cleaner materials is not yet known.

PRN system

The reform of the PRN system may see Defra adopt a full cost recovery approach with obligated companies having to pay more towards recycling. Various proposals are to be set out in a consultation paper in the New Year and these may include the creation of a new government body to oversee the system. Interim packaging waste targets are likely to be set as the new system won’t be agreed until a consultation process is concluded next year.

Actions will also be proposed in the metals, chemicals and construction sectors with the RWS covering a large number of products and industries.

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