19 July 2019 by Will Date

Industry welcomes Gove’s ‘commitment’ on waste

Environment Secretary Michael Gove’s plea for government to continue momentum built up through the Resources and Waste Strategy has been welcomed by senior figures from the waste sector.

On Wednesday (17 July) Mr Gove delivered a speech titled ‘time is running out’, potentially his last in the environment chair, in which he urged colleagues to ensure environment policy plays an important role in future government work (see letsrecycle.com story).

During the speech he also outlined his preference to see an ‘all-in’ deposit return scheme for drinks packaging as well as highlighting proposals to overhaul producer responsibility legislation for packaging waste, as set out in the government’s Resources and Waste Strategy.

Commitment

Mr Gove’s comments have elicited a positive response from senior members of the waste industry, who have welcomed what they see as a ‘commitment’ on waste policy from government – although there has been a note of caution over the possible pursuit of an all-in DRS.

Among them was Richard Kirkman, chief technology and innovation officer, at Veolia. Mr Kirkman praised what he saw as the government’s ‘determination’ to push ahead with the Resources Strategy.

He said: “The Resources and Waste Strategy is ground-breaking – outlining how recycling rates can improve and waste can be reduced by ensuring the producer pays, making a serious environmental difference. We mirror the government’s determination to see these ambitions come to fruition and support the Secretary of State in his aims to push through this important policy.

“The four cornerstones of the Strategy consist of simplifying collections and labelling, taxing products which don’t use recycled content, launching a deposit return scheme and implementing a polluter pays mechanism to shift the costs away from local authorities and on to producers of waste. If all this is delivered in synchrony, it will create better recycling practice, lower the cost burden for local authorities and lay the foundations for more sustainable business in this country.

“We are ready to adapt our systems, invest in facilities and upskill our workforce to keep this momentum going and establish an effective environmental legacy for the next generation to build on.”

Producer responsibility

Viridor Managing Director Phil Piddington, said the company welcomed Mr Gove’s commitment to extended producer responsibility, more standardised local government collection services and clearer labelling – all fundamental requirements to achieving the UK’s circular economy goals and a policy framework which Viridor has consistently called for.

Mr Piddington said: “Following Viridor’s recent announcement of a third plastics recycling and reprocessing plant with a £65m investment at Avonmouth, near Bristol, we are pleased to hear Mr Gove say he wishes to work with business to make deposit return schemes as effective as possible. “It is crucial that we match policy and ambition and investment, ensuring the recycling material which may be currently escaping the net is captured, put back in the economy, kept out of our seas and off our beaches.”

Speaking also in his capacity as ESA Chairman, Mr Piddington said the sector stood ready to invest in infrastructure and would with government to ensure more recycled materials are returned back into the economy.

‘Bold’

Mr Piddington’s comments were echoed by ESA executive director Jacob Hayler, who described Mr Gove’s speech as a “bold and important commitment to making producers pay the full cost of managing the packaging they place onto the market”.

He continued: “This is something that ESA members have long called for, and we are delighted that the Government has listened. As ever, the detail will be crucial to making the new packaging producer responsibility system work in practice, and we look forward to our continued collaboration with government on this.”

However, he sounded a note of caution over the Minsiter’s preference for an ‘all-in’ DRS which would include beverage containers of all sizes and materials.

Mr Hayler said: “It is important that interactions between a DRS and a new producer responsibility scheme are fully analysed to ensure that all parts of the system work together to achieve the best environmental outcomes.

“And, of course, all this must be underpinned by a strong Environment Bill that that sets a clear long-term direction of travel and the governance structures to hold everyone to account. We look forward to reading the full Environment Bill to ensure it does just that.”

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