Reaction to EFRA report on English recycling and waste management



With Defra coming in for a bashing from the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee for stepping back from recycling policy, the industry has been largely supportive of the report.


Resource Association chief executive Ray Georgeson (pictured) congratulated the EFRA Committee on its “strong analysis and clear recommendations that we support”.

He added: “We note in particular that the Committee has asked Defra to consider statutory recycling targets for local authorities – this is an important recommendation and reflects the urgency with which the achievement of 2020 recycling targets needs to be addressed afresh.

“We welcome the Committee’s acknowledgement that much more needs to be done to communicate regularly and effectively with the public to raise recycling rates, and to address public confidence in the recycling process and understanding of where recycling goes.

“Our End Destination of Recycling Charter has played a role, but we wholeheartedly welcome the Committee’s recommendation that statutory reporting of end destination is required. At the very least, we invite Defra Minister to echo the response of officials in their evidence by extending greater public support to the End Destination Charter and we extend an open invitation to Dan Rogerson to meet with us and Charter signatories to explore ways of extending the reach of the Charter.”

SITA UK chief executive David Palmer-Jones welcomed the report especially as it backed the industry view that Defra stepping back from waste policy was “ill-conceived and premature”.

He added: “The wide-ranging conclusions drawn by the Committee emphasise that much remains for Defra to do, taking ownership and leading a joined-up approach to resource policy across all Government departments.

“The inquiry has identified actions along the entire waste management chain – actions that can only be driven by central government. Key among these are the need to harmonise waste collection and recycling systems particularly with respect to food waste, the re-imposition of recycling targets for all local authorities alongside financial support to meet them, and driving recyclable materials out of landfill in order for the UK to reach 70 per cent recycling by 2030 regardless of whether formal targets are in place.

“In the shorter term, the inquiry shares out sector’s concern that England will fail to meet its 50 per cent household waste recycling target by 2020, and urges Defra to realign its policy levels to address the potential shortfall.

“Above all, the inquiry agrees with our sector that Defra’s lack of ambition and drive will hinder England’s ability to unlock the significant economic and social benefits that greater resource efficiency can deliver.

“As such, both as chief executive of SITA UK and chairman of the ESA, I welcome the report’s recommendations and hope that they provide the catalyst we need for Government to re-engage with our sector.”

LARAC broadly welcomed the report but called for the end of the confusion myth with the EFRA report saying that too many collection systems are confusing the public.

Chair Andrew Bird said: “We applaud the fact the report recognises the threefold increase in rates since 2000, due to the hard work of local authorities. The current slowdown in recycling rates across England is a direct result of the policy vacuum and the drastic funding cuts councils have had to contend with, which those outside of local authorities should not underestimate.

“It will not matter if the policy void is filled, without accompanying funding, councils will still be forced to weigh up the need for expanded waste services against education, social services and health and wellbeing needs.”

However, the On-Pack Recycling Label (OPRL) run by the British Retail Consortium, disagreed with LARAC and said that different schemes are confusing for the public.

OPRL chair Jane Bevis said: “We completely endorse the Select Committee’s conclusions on the need to give consumers clear guidance on recycling, and to reinforce that advice again and again. The On-Pack Recycling Label does just that, providing detailed information on each element of packaging so that consumer know whether to put it in the recycling bin or out with the waste. Over 160 companies use our label on their packaging and this widespread use means 6 in 10 consumers now recognise it.

“We are dedicated to promoting greater recycling, while avoiding contamination of materials going to the processors – our members use the resulting recycled product in their packaging and want it to be of a high quality. But with great variations in local authority recycling services, it’s very confusing for consumers. That’s why our label, showing if something is widely recycled or not recyclable, or whether you need to check your local services, is so essential.”

Renewable Energy Association technical director Jeremy Jacobs called on Defra to do more to realise the potential of waste-based renewables with the EFRA report suggesting better use could be made of energy recovery options.

He added: “The UK still exports vast quantities of refuse derived fuel. We could be using this valuable resource here to generate very cheap low carbon heat and power in conventional combustion plants, or to boost the development of cutting edge UK technology like gasification and pyrolysis, instead of shipping it off to the Continent.

“The call for further development of heat networks is also welcome, but we disagree with the statement that there’s no role for purpose-grown crops in anaerobic digestion. What we do need to do is find an economically and environmentally sustainable balance between crops and wastes – and that needs Government leadership.”