Landfill tax alone will not help the UK pursue its reuse and recycling agenda now that the UK has voted to leave the EU, Veolia’s UK & Ireland Vice-President has warned.
Giving evidence to an Environmental Audit Committee inquiry yesterday (5 July), Estelle Brachlianoff was quizzed by MPs on how Treasury decisions influence the waste and recycling industry.
She was joined on the panel by Dan Cooke, external affairs director at Viridor, who discussed how Circular Economy targets for recycling adopted in Europe could still be incorporated into Defra’s 25-year strategy.
Asked by Committee chair Mary Creagh whether landfill tax was enough to drive the waste industry in the long term, Mrs Brachlianoff argued that the Treasury should no longer treat waste as a “niche” given its economic potential.
Mrs Brachlianoff said: “I don’t think the Landfill Tax alone will help us get to the next step, if you want to go further we will need three pillars. These are landfill tax, energy from waste, and producers and manufacturers having to add recyclable material in their products. With one or two incentives we could get to the next step.”
The Veolia vice-president went on to add that the UK should strive for more than a 50% recycling rate by 2020, claiming that the Circular Economy could create “175,000 jobs” and add “90 billion per year” in GDP.
“Lots of people were hopeful and waiting for the EU Circular Economy Package, which we now know won’t be the next step for this country,” she continued. “If you want to achieve high recycling rates we have to find outlets. Manufacturing goods with some recyclable materials in is not technically an issue anymore. Virgin materials share a lot of the same characteristics as recycled materials.”
Ms Creagh went on to ask the two witnesses whether the government’s withdrawal of PFI credits, which could have funded waste infrastructure, could have played a part in the drop of the country’s average recycling rate in 2014/15.
Mr Cooke said that Viridor had been “disappointed” that PFI funding of over £100 million had been withdrawn for Cheshire’s mechanical biological treatment facility near Northwich in 2011 – for which the company had been named preferred bidder (see letsrecycle.com story).
He went on to add that to stimulate progress for recycling in the UK, the government should consider adopting similar targets to those laid laid out in the European Commission’s Circular Economy Package, albeit in a different framework – such as Defra’s upcoming 25-year strategy.
He said: “The ambition of the Treasury was to achieve landfill diversion targets and that was it. There are opportunities out there, even if the Circular Economy Package is not the opportunity we are looking for. But what’s the UK version of the Circular Economy Package?”
Mr Cooke added: “There is this opportunity for the UK to show leadership. If the UK government thought that was far from perfect in terms of targets, can we as the UK put in place something that is more pragmatic?”