Supporters of plans for an Office for Resource Management (ORM) within government have defended the environmental benefits of the policy.
The ORM would operate as a ‘centre of expertise’ and be critical in driving the shift towards the circular economy its backers say.
Launch of the paper has been instigated by the Material Security Working Group, which is chaired by EEF, a trade association for the UK manufacturing sector.
Other key players involved in driving the idea are the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), and Friends of the Earth and the Resource Association.
It follows years of increasing pressure from members in the resource sector who would like to see the waste brief transferred from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to the Department of Business, Skills & Innovation (BIS) in order to maximise the economic benefits of secondary materials.
However, it remains unclear from the paper where ORM would be based within the current government structure.
Critics of the idea to move waste policy from Defra to BIS claim that environmental issues around waste could be sidelined if the policy brief is no longer aligned with other environmental policies.
A previous report published by the Institute for Public Policy Research last year called for the establishment of ORM within Defra, claiming BIS is an ‘overloaded’ department with too many existing responsibilities (see lerstecycle.com story).
However, a House of Lords science and technology committee, EEF and the Institute of Civil Engineers have all come out in favour of locating the policy unit within BIS.
Speaking to letsrecycle.com yesterday, Friends of the Earth campaign specialist Julian Kirby said that there was ‘suggestion’ within the Working Group that ORM should be located in BIS – but that there was no ‘settled view’ on the subject.
The environment agenda would never be neglected because it gets regulated so stringently. There is no intention to do that [divert resources away] at all. We see the waste management element of this as being a bigger component of the resource sector
Asked whether ORM could divert much-needed resources away from the environmental agenda for waste, Mr Kirby argued that economy and the environment ‘were two sides of the same coin’.
He said: “We have our differences but we are absolutely on the same page when it comes to boosting resource efficiency. One of the things that needs to be told is the business community is really angry with this government for its neglect of the resource agenda and we have seen government turn away when asked to attend meetings on this subject.
“We need to tackle the contradictions in government, where Eric Pickles is doing everything he can to reduce the ability of councils to collect recyclables and Defra is pushing the opposite agenda.”
Also commenting on the launch of the paper, Susanne Baker, chair of the Material Security Working Group and senior policy advisor at EEF said where the ORM was located depended on “which Party gets in”.
She added: “The environment agenda would never be neglected because it gets regulated so stringently. There is no intention to do that [divert resources away] at all. We see the waste management element of this as being a bigger component of the resource sector.”
The paper has been launched in conjunction with the All Party Sustainable Resource Group (APSRG), which will hold a meeting in Westminster this afternoon discussing the proposals in greater detail.
Conservative MP Laura Sandys, Liberal Democrat advisor Duncan Brack and a yet to be confirmed Labour representative will be in attendance at the event to outline whether their Party would commit to the ORM during the next Parliament.