The Environmental Audit Committee has accused the Government of putting its “head in the sand” by refusing to take basic steps to develop a circular economy.
Following the publication of the report Ending the Throwaway Society: Growing a Circular Economy by the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee in July,, the Government has rejected the key proposals put forward by MPs.
Key recommendations including greater standardisation in collection systems, lower VAT rates for products with recycled content, a ban on food waste to landfill and making it a requirement for products to be recyclable at the end of life have all been rejected in the Government response to the report.
Environmental Audit Committee chair Joan Walley MP (pictured) said: “The disposable society simply isn’t sustainable in the 21st century. Innovative companies in the UK, like B&Q and M&S recognise this and are already demonstrating that using resources less wastefully is the future of business. Yet our Government seems to have its head in the sand and is refusing to take basic steps to reduce the amount of food and resources we waste.
“Breaking the link between primary resource use and economic growth is essential if we want to create a truly sustainable economic system that can cope with rising global demand and population growth. It is possible, and many businesses are showing real leadership in becoming more resource efficient.
“But we need the Government to create a framework where companies and consumers are rewarded for doing the right thing. The tax system should be used to incentivise products that are designed to have a lower environmental impact and support greater repair and reuse. Materials and products that cannot be recycled should be phased out altogether.”
However, the Government did accept a recommendation to consider reforming the PRN system to include an ‘offset’ or lower charge for products that have higher recycled content. It will also consider introducing individual producer responsibility schemes in new sectors to make more producers design products with end-of-life in mind.
It said: “The Government welcomes the Committee’s recommendation and will consider it as part of current work looking at the PRN system. The aim is to better understand where the barriers are to meeting the targets proposed in the recent European Commission package to review waste legislation.
“The Commission’s proposals are at a very early stage and we can expect substantial changes as negotiations progress. We are currently therefore considering all scenarios to support our negotiation and ensure that we are in a good position to implement the final agreed targets.
“Whatever solution we end up with for implementing new target, the Government believes that the following criteria for a producer responsibility system are desirable:
- Have a good fit with the system used to achieve related targets for reducing household waste, reducing its disposal to landfill and for increasing household recycling
- Provide a mechanism for meeting stretching targets that is cost-effective and securely delivers sufficient change to meet targets
- Provide a fair distribution of costs and burdens that encourages innovation and incentivises collaboration throughout the supply chain, where this enhances value in recyclate. This may include incentives for manufacturers to produce recyclable goods, and/or for end-users and the waste management industry to preserve value.
“We exist in a global market and the global trade in recyclate mirrors the international trade in raw materials and products. The export trade in UK recyclate reflects a mixture of both demand from overseas reprocessors (which means that they are willing to pay competitive prices for the recyclate) and, in some cases, collections of UK waste material in excess of demand from UK reprocessors/manufacturers. It is important that any amendments do not conflict with trade laws.”
View the full Government response at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmselect/cmenvaud/699/69902.htm