Waste policy, government thinking one year on..
This week saw the publication of the government's overdue review of waste policy in England. Its launch has been notable perhaps for the chorus of condemnation by an unusual mix of trade associations, retailers and campaign groups.
Most of the criticism has been over the document's lack of ambition. There's some truth in this. There's an awful lot of rhetoric and meaningful intentions on the creation of a zero waste economy but without the concrete policy framework which will deliver this grand political vision.
Despite this, there is a notable shift in thinking in some key areas. Whereas in the past government's focus has been predominately focused on household waste, there is a welcome new focus on improving business waste collections. EEF has long argued that a lack of cost-effective, accessible waste facilities has undermined attempts by smaller manufacturers to manage their wastes more sustainably. The work underway to encourage local authorities to open up their facilities to manufacturers is long overdue and welcome.
There are other pledges which we will need to consider in more detail. Potential bans on the landfilling of wood waste sound sensible, but we know that some manufacturers can struggle to find buyers for their wood unless it has been through some labour-intensive preparation. Textiles and biodegradable wastes may also be banned in landfill sites in future. Clearly this can only happen once a national network of facilities is in place to divert these materials to.
The need for regionally relevant waste infrastructure is an issue EEF has pushed government to consider in the past. It is no secret that our waste infrastructure is yet to be fit for purpose. It is therefore welcome that the government has confirmed that there will be a new duty on local authorities "to cooperate" on in the Localism Bill. This may go some way to address concerns about the impact of scrapping Regional Development Agencies on regional waste infrastructure planning.
Landfill tax is also set to further increase. A new base rate of £80 per tonne has been announced for 2014-15. Other commitments include potentially increased packaging targets on packaging producers in the next few years and the promise of a new Waste Prevention Programme sometime in the future. We will also need to monitor plans to drive waste prevention through product design and standards. The government can go further to help manufacturers improve their resource efficiency and make it easier for you to manage your waste more sustainably.