The government does want all the aspects of its Resources and Waste Strategy “to work together”, delegates were assured in the final session of this week’s “Strategy Unwrapped” conference in London.
The message on the interplay of strategy measures, and in particular the four areas to be consulted on shortly was emphasised by Linda Crichton who is currently working on the strategy in Defra’s Extended Producer Responsibility team and was previously with WRAP.
And, the session also heard that local authority democracy should not be forgotten, there was a need to drive demand for recycled material, waste companies could lose material because of the DRS system and that UK wide schemes were best.
Mrs Crichton told the final session, which focused on feedback from panellists and the audience, that it would be helpful if “you want to come together as a sector to explain the parts of the Resources and Waste Strategy you can agree on, or can’t agree on – that would be valuable to us.”
She also invited evidence around the consultation areas, conceding that the Department had “evidence gaps”.
Costs and payments under the EPR system were discussed. EPR producers, said Mrs Crichton, would be picking up the cost of products at the end of life and so would be encouraged to design packaging to reduce costs at end of life.
Also on the panel for the session, which was chaired by Margaret Bates of CIWM, was senior London local authority officer Andrew Lappage, managing director of the East London Waste Authority.
“There is a need to recognise the democratic accountability of those services which come out of the public health agenda…”Andrew Lappage
The point was made to the panel that under the proposed EPR system, producers – and ultimately consumers – would meet the cost of the scheme. Mr Lappage was asked whether local authorities would reduce their council tax charges because they would be spending less on waste and recycling services.
He said: “I would suggest that councillors might want to help residents by cutting taxes but they might also want to restore other services; I can’t say what they might do.”
Mr Lappage also reminded the audience of the important role of accountability within local authorities for services including waste and recycling. “There is a need to recognise the democratic accountability of those services which come out of the public health agenda, which is where these services come from.”
Also on the panel was Kevin Vyse, senior packaging technologist for Marks & Spencer. Mr Vyse reflected that in terms of responses to the consultation, “it would be good to get on neutral ground with our competitors to discuss it, such as through the BRC.” And, he argued that more attention needed to be paid the packaging of products as well as food, and gave an example of a USB lead being packaged in an unnecessarily large box.
David Baker of RPC and Incpen agreed that a joined up approach was needed, noting “we will all have to compromise and be flexible”. But, he cautioned that the conference hadn’t heard much about driving the demand for recycled material.
Simon Webb of Procter and Gamble said the company wanted to avoid different schemes within the UK. Dr Webb also noted that the EU was thinking about a disproportionately high level of virgin plastics tax compared to the market values of resins for plastic making. Plus, he felt there “is a problem for producers in that there is an absence of end of waste criteria on recycled content. We need that reassurance that the material is of a quality we can use.”
For the waste management sector, Tania Hitchcock, resource and product quality manager at Grundon, said: “We want to drive quality, drive extended EPR but it looks as though what we are taking away from our dry recyclables stream is going to hit quality.”
The event was opened and closed by Paul Vanston, chief executive of packaging organisation INCPEN. Mr Vanston emphasised the benefits of trying to work together across the sector over the issues which will be raised in the looming consultation documents.
And, he praised the audience for their involvement and questions during the day.
- Resources and Waste Strategy Unwrapped took place at the Congress Centre in London. The Conference was delivered by INCPEN, the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management, Environmental Services Association, Resource Association and WRAP, and organised by Environment Media Group, the parent company of letsrecycle.com. The Headline sponsor for the event was FCC Environment, with additional sponsorship from Brolube, Company Shop, Suez and Tegos Group