The House of Lords EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee has written to DEFRA Minister Dr Thérèse Coffey MP, asking the UK Government to urgently “provide clarity” on the post-Brexit trade arrangements for waste.
The letter to Dr Coffey, who has the recycling and resource brief, follows an evidence session with the sector experts on 22 November, which examined the potential impact of Brexit on the UK’s trade in waste.
In the New Year Dr Coffey is now expected to be grilled by the committee following evidence it received at the session from waste and resource sector representatives, including Ray Georgeson of the Resource Asssociation, Lee Marshall from LARAC and Jacob Hayler from the Environmental Services Association.
The Committee heard that if it becomes more difficult, and more costly, to export waste this could result in more waste being sent to landfill in the UK; illegally dumped, or being exported to non-EU countries with lower environmental standards.
In the letter, the committee tells Dr Coffey of concerns regarding the Brexit impacts on exports of 3-4m tonnes of material for recycling to the EU each year, as well as c. 4m tonnes of waste for fuel. The UK also imports some waste for processing from other EU countries.
Potential impacts of Brexit are noted in the letter, including the introduction of tariffs, and non-tariff barriers, making it more difficult and costly to export waste.
The committee explained that during the evidence session, “the overwhelming consensus of witnesses was that there was an urgent need for the UK Government to provide clarity on both the post-Brexit trade arrangements and on the UK’s future policy direction.”
The letter also highlights that 55% of all plastics which the UK exports go to China, but with major restrictions on this trade announced by the Chinese Government this will place an even greater pressure on the waste industry.
Chairman of the Committee, Lord Teverson, said: “Brexit could provide opportunities for the UK’s trade in waste, but the industry needs certainty in order to be able to plan and invest. Without a clear statement on the Government’s future intentions – in relation to recycling targets, regulations on product design the industry cannot predict, or prepare for, future demand.
“We invite Dr Thérèse Coffey MP to address the concerns that were raised during the discussion and look forward to hearing how the Government plans to tackle this pressing issue.”
The role of the EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee is to examine policy areas relating to agriculture, fisheries, environment and energy.