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The next stage of legislation and regulation

Date: 11/09/2014 | Author: Paul Sanderson

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Ahead of RWM, Resource Efficient Business and Prodware will be publishing an article every day on the Top Ten Drivers for Recycling Change.

We would like you to share your views on which of these 10 ideas you think will be the most significant drivers for recycling change. Come to the Prodware stand at RWM (4F106-G107) and show what you believe will be the key drivers on the 'Cool Wall' or tweet your Top 3 to @ProdwareUK and/or @ResourceEBnews using #TopRecycling

Today, we look at compliance and producer responsibility:

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Many in the recycling and resource sector will tell you that regulation and legislation has been key to raising rates and awareness in the UK.

And it is likely that the next decade will see new regulation and legislation as we move towards developing a circular economy.

But this change will by necessity be built on the foundations of existing legislation.

One of the key pieces of legislation over the last 15 years has been the Landfill Directive. Launched in 1999, the aim of the directive was “to prevent or reduce as far as possible negative effects on the environment, in particular the pollution of surface water, groundwater, soil and air, and on the global environment, including the greenhouse effect, as well as any resulting risk to human health, from the landfilling of waste, during the whole lifecycle of the landfill.”

But the UK had been ahead of the game, and in 1996 Conservative Environment Secretary John Gummer introduced the Landfill Tax. Currently at £80 per tonne after escalating progressively in value over the years, the Landfill Tax is often seen as a key reason why the UK raised recycling rates as landfill became an increasingly expensive option. The current Government has announced that Landfill Tax will rise by inflation from April 2015 rather than the previous £8 per tonne per year.

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Resource Association chief executive Ray Georgeson says: “The Landfill Directive is still the key piece of legislation that has driven change, and even with a hiatus in Government signals about future levels of Landfill Tax, this still remains a key driver. 

“Landfill Tax increases really drove home the objectives of the Directive but we are reaching a stage where review is needed and new signals generated for industry. 

“Close to the horizon of course are new regulations to manage the operations of materials recycling facilities to improve recyclate quality, and implementation of the separate collection requirements of the revised Waste Framework Directive (rWFD) which impact on business and councils next year and remain the source of much debate about collection systems.”

Indeed, with the rWFD forcing the UK Government to implement separate collection of paper, metals, glass and plastics where it is technically, environmentally and economically possible (TEEP) to do so from January 2015, this will have an impact on how collection systems are organised, especially as guidance on TEEP remains vague.

Ray Georgeson believes that we are about to enter a new period of legislation and regulation that will have an impact on the market.

He adds: “The Landfill Directive will reach a point where its job should be done.  To an extent this is reflected in the new package of proposals from the European Commission which focus much more on how we achieve higher levels of recycling across Europe and move towards a more resource efficient and circular economy – but it still leaves Member States in the driving seat as to how to reach these goals.  This should provide an impetus and incentive for UK Government to think afresh about its strategy – let’s hope so.”

He also argues that legislation and regulation should be seen as a positive and not always a burden: “It is an interesting characteristic of much of our industry that we can recognise the benefits of legislation and regulation to our business and regularly advocate this to Government. 

“It is a message that can be hard to hit home within a deregulatory Government climate that still doesn’t ‘get it’ that good environmental regulation can bring real business benefits and be good for the environment and economy together.

“The key always is to have regulation fit for purpose and not excessively burdensome, but let’s not fight shy of saying regulation can be good!

“I would like to see Government be bold and visionary, get hold of the emerging potential of the circular economy and better resource efficiency, and I would review and consolidate legislation into a new Resource Management Act. 

“As well as enshrine targets for waste prevention, reuse and recycling, this could include clear regulatory messages about the collection and separation of key materials, strengthen procurement rules to encourage the use of recycled materials in products and create an Office of Resource Management (ORM) (with a Cabinet Ministerial champion) to effectively co-ordinate and champion resources policy across Government. 

“There is so much more to include, but my main point is that, without an ORM we will continue to lack drive and focus and run the danger of losing ground to other major European economies in terms of the benefits we should be realising from the circular economy.”

Although an ORM isn’t Government policy yet, it is something that is being advocated by politicians across the political spectrum and it remains possible that the coming years will see it introduced into Government.

If that happens, it will inevitably mean that legislation and regulation will continue to be a driver for change, especially as the European Union’s environmental legislative agenda looks set to be driven by resource efficiency and the circular economy.

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