‘Real work begins now’ – Waste sector reacts to Environment Act

The waste sector has welcomed the Environment Act, which was passed in parliament last night, however concern remains over the timelines of waste reforms.

The OEP has been created to monitor the government’s environmental activities (picture: Shutterstock)

It means that the long-awaited Environment Bill is now enshrined into UK law, after having been granted Royal Assent (see letsrecycle.com story).

Defra explained that the Environment Act will help the “transition to a more circular economy, incentivising people to recycle more, encouraging businesses to create sustainable packaging, making household recycling easier and stopping the export of polluting plastic waste to developing countries”.


The Environment Services Association (ESA) said that the Act represents a “radical policy-shift” that will allow the sector to achieve a 65% municipal recycling rate by 2035.

Jacob Hayler
Jacob Hayler is executive director of the ESA

However, executive director of the ESA, Jacob Hayler warned that “important details” set out in the Resources and Waste strategy are “yet to be fully seen”.

Mr Hayler explained: “After a long process through Parliament, we are pleased to see that the Environmental Bill finally granted Royal Assent, but much of the content related to the RWS policy changes will be subject to secondary legislation, and the important details around the implementation of this act in daily life have therefore yet to be fully seen.

“Furthermore, the ESA welcomes the much-needed tightening of legislation around waste crime that the Environment Act paves the way for, alongside improved enforcement powers, but implementation of this must be supported by increased funding to regulatory and enforcement bodies if they are to have their desired effect to both protect the environment and support investment in legitimate enterprise.”


The Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology (REA) similarly welcomed the news, but urged the government not to delay requirements around mandatory recycling of food and garden waste.

Jenny Grant urged the government not to delay requirements for organics recycling

Jenny Grant, head of organics and Natural Capital at the REA, explained: “We welcome the news that the Environment Bill has achieved royal assent. The organic recycling of food and garden wastes from households, along with food wastes from businesses, is key in tackling climate change.

“This not only reduces emissions compared with leaving them in the residual waste stream, but also enables the production of valuable soil conditioners and fertilisers that can be returned to our soils and used as a partial replacement for peat in growing media. We urge the government to implement these requirements as soon as possible to so we can get the maximum benefits from these valuable resources.”


The On-Pack Recycling Label (OPRL) scheme described it as “great news” and said that the Act allows the scheme to take a “strong action” on improving resource efficiency and establish a “fully functioning circular economy in packaging”.

However, it also noted that now is the time the “real work begins”.


The WWF welcomed the passing of the Act, however expressed disappointment that several “vital changes” it campaigned for didn’t make it into final law.

On twitter, the organisation expressed the importance for Defra to support an Office for Environmental Protection.

The OEP was launched on an interim basis in July and has been created to monitor the government’s environmental activities, replacing the European Commission, which had regulatory powers before Brexit.

It said: “Defra needs to support a truly independent Office for Environmental Protection. Without a fully independent OEP, the Government cannot be held properly to account for environmental wrongdoings.”


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