OPINION: Jacob Hayler, executive director of the Environmental Services Association, outlines some of the key areas for debate from the government’s Resources and Waste Strategy.
The Resources and Waste Strategy (RWS) is a once in a lifetime opportunity to set in place changes that will help manage our resources better; setting a clear ambition and effective measures to drive the right behaviours across the value chain. We have to get this right.
As countless reports have recently highlighted, the climate and our natural environment cannot wait, bold ambition backed by effective measures action is needed. At the heart of the proposals is Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), signalling a sea-change towards producers taking greater responsibility for their packaging and products, which arguably is essential for the transition to a more circular economy. I believe the other measures, not least Deposit Return Scheme (DRS), therefore need to be assessed in the context of EPR. The RWS should be treated as a package of measures and can only be successful if joined up, in particular aligning what is designed, labelled, collected, sorted and reused or recycled. The implications of any proposal therefore cannot be viewed in isolation.
Leonardo da Vinci is credited with saying “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” and I believe great effort will be needed to ensure the package of measures to achieve the outcomes from the RWS are as simple as possible to achieve its outcomes – all stakeholders need to understand their role, otherwise we risk confusion, non-compliance and possibly waste crime. We should also be ever mindful of providing a good service to households and businesses.
There are some key points that I and ESA will be pressing in the development of the proposals arising from the RWS:
- The EPR system must incentivise the right behaviours from producers, including better design.
- The EPR system should include both household and C&I collections and treat these equally.
- Fair competition is essential for driving cost efficiency and the success of EPR reform, we need competing compliance schemes offering choice and innovation. Monopolies have a poor track record for delivering value for money.
- DRS is a form of EPR and should target those materials lost through the current system through “on the go” and littering.
- To reduce inefficiencies EPR and DRS should be UK-wide.
- Clear, mandatory labelling will help consumers do the right thing. It should be developed together with the waste and resource industry and align with consistency of what is collected.
- The system must focus on delivering quality recycling, feeding more domestic recycling, while meeting new ambitious targets. How that is done should remain up to the local authorities, but should be linked to the idea of a minimum service standard in order to receive EPR funding.
The waste and resources sector stands ready to help shape the proposals and then invest in the new infrastructure that is needed to turn them into a reality of a more resource efficient economy.
I’m really looking forward to the debate.
Jacob Hayler will be chairing a session on EPR, the DRS and recycling consistency at the Resources and Waste Strategy Unwrapped Conference on 13 February.