11 November 2008

Government issues statement over falling prices

A statement has been issued today (November 11) by the government over recycling in England in the wake of a top-level meeting to address the impact of the economic downturn on the recycling sector.

Demand and prices for some materials have now dropped significantly and we want to ensure that this does not undermine public confidence in the value of recycling, nor lead to unacceptable environmental consequences

 
Defra, EA and WRAP

Produced by Defra, the Environment Agency and WRAP, in consultation with industry, the statement acknowledges that demand and prices for some materials have dropped “significantly” and that the bodies expect increased storage of some materials in the short term. The devolved administrations have also been consulted on the statement.

As a result, Defra and its recycling organisation WRAP have made it a priority to maintain public confidence in recycling, further promote waste minimisation, focus on producing high quality recyclables and discourage sending any materials to landfill.

And, they state an intention to “avoid actions which exacerbate the situation whilst markets stabilise”.

Guidance 

The statement follows meetings between Defra and the other bodies with the waste management industry on November 11 and and comes ahead of the publication of EA guidance which is expected to help councils and waste management firms with the storage of recyclables (see letsrecycle.com story).

Defra explained: “We expect that there may be increased storage of some materials in the short term and the Environment Agency is issuing helpful guidance on its approach.

“In making decisions, local authorities and their contractors will want to ensure that they have a home for materials that is being stored in the short term, that the storage won't compromise the environment and doesn't lead to deterioration in the quality of the materials that will further reduce their recyclability or value,” it added.

LGA 

Defra, the EA and WRAP also revealed that the LGA would be issuing advice to local authorities in England later this week on practical measures that can be taken, and that WRAP would continue to monitor the situation and make information “regularly available”.

The statement concluded: “We will continue to work together in the best interests of the environment, to monitor developing markets and to keep this situation under review.”

Reaction

Immediate views from within the recycling and waste management sector were that the statement from Defra, the Environment Agency, WRAP and NISP did perhaps not go far enough to address the current situation and was in some ways window-dressing and a way to ensure that statements were available to reassure the public about the need to continue recycling.

However, there were thought to be conflicting views amongst the industry as to whether the government should intervene with some businesses thought to prefer little government involvement with an acceptance that the marketplace will be resolved in one way or other.

The full statement is as follows:

Markets for recyclable materials

This statement has been produced by the main bodies concerned with recycling in England – Defra, the Environment Agency, the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP), and the National Industrial Symbiosis Programme (NISP), in discussion with representatives from industry.

Our performance on increasing recycling and reducing reliance on landfill has improved significantly in recent years. We have also seen increased demand for recyclable materials for developing economies, reflected in the unprecedented rise in the value of these materials earlier this year. Demand and prices for some materials have now dropped significantly and we want to ensure that this does not undermine public confidence in the value of recycling, nor lead to unacceptable environmental consequences.

Resource efficiency and waste prevention are even more important during the economic downturn. Our priorities are therefore:

• To further promote waste minimisation
• To maintain public confidence that recycling is worthwhile to ensure continuity of collection systems for recyclables
• To focus on producing high quality marketable recyclables
• To ensure any storage of recyclables doesn't undermine the environment or public health or the recyclability of those materials
• Where the traditional markets for recyclables have contracted, to encourage recovery and disposal options towards the top of the waste hierarchy – i.e. landfill as a last resort
• To avoid actions which exacerbate the situation whilst markets stabilise.

Dialogue between waste producers (including local authorities) collectors and waste processors is crucial, to ensure the right quality of material. The storage of recyclables at sites regulated by the Environment Agency is a normal part of the secondary materials business. We expect that there may be increased storage of some materials in the short term and the Environment Agency is issuing helpful guidance on its approach.

In making decisions, local authorities and their contactors will want to ensure that they have a home for materials that is being stored in the short term, that the storage won't compromise the environment and doesn't lead to deterioration in the quality of the materials that will further reduce their recyclability or value.

The Local Government Association (LGA) is issuing advice to local authorities in England later this week on practical measures that can be taken.

Next Steps

WRAP will continue to monitor markets and prices to make information regularly available. We will all continue to work together in the best interests of the environment, to monitor developing markets and to keep this situation under review.

 

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