The Resource Association has issued a challenge to all political parties vying for power in the 2017 General Election to respond to the potential of the circular economy and better resource efficiency in their election manifestos.
Releasing its Manifesto for Resources 2017 the Association articulated “Ten Steps towards a Circular Economy” – a series of policy proposals that would have a transformational effect on the UK resources sector and change course towards a far more resource efficient, circular economy with job creation, better resource use, environmental benefits and high quality recycling at its beating heart.
Resource Association chief executive Ray Georgeson (pictured) said:
“General Elections always provide an important point of reflection and review of the direction the country is taking. This one is no exception and if anything is the most important General Election for many years. In producing our Manifesto for Resources 2017 and identifying ten steps towards a circular economy, our desire is to remind our politicians how important this is, with its twin benefits to the environment and economy. Environmental progress, protections and the value of our regulated resource industries have been hard won over the past decades. We have so much untapped potential, whatever the ultimate conclusion of the Brexit negotiations proves to be. We hope this is not lost on future policy makers. “
The Manifesto for Resources 2017 sets five key challenges to the political parties:
- Make a long-term commitment to the development of a circular economy, encompassing much greater resource productivity and efficiency for UK industry;
- Send clear signals to our industry about the levels of ambition and impact they see the circular economy having, providing us with a strong and stable policy direction to encourage investment;
- Guarantee that existing environmental standards and protections will remain in place as a minimum and commit to exploring improvements, regardless of the outcome of Brexit negotiations;
- Commit to placing high-quality recycling and consistency in household recycling collections at the heart of resources policy, recognising the importance of this to a healthy and sustainable UK manufacturing base utilising recovered materials;
- Become champions for the value and potential of the circular economy and the role of the resources sector within it, recognising our foundation role in the UK economy and the ambition we have for our industries.
It articulates Ten Steps towards a Circular Economy, as follows:
1 Undertake a comprehensive review of English waste policy, transforming the present policy base into a resources and circular economy strategy for England, with maintenance of the existing 2020 legislative framework as its starting point and commissioning a fundamental review of the environmental and economic case for action on resources use, scarcity and efficiency (along the lines of the Stern Review on climate change). As part of a move from waste strategy to resources strategy, consider the potential for review of recycling targets as the primary measure of success and examine the case for the use of residual waste per capita, re-use per capita, carbon and other measures as better metrics that capture the intentions of a circular economy-based resources strategy.
2 Establish a statutory duty on businesses to collect and submit data on waste and resource use, to aid full understanding of materials flows and impacts and infrastructure planning. This duty should be placed on the regulated and licensed businesses that provide waste and resources collections.
3 Introduce a combined approach to tackling biodegradable municipal waste by bringing forward a ban on biodegradable waste to landfill with a duty to provide separate food waste collections accessible to every household by 2025. This should extend to landfill and eventually incineration bans on key recyclables as markets and end uses for recyclates are fully developed, in a timeframe to 2030.
4 Introduce a requirement for businesses to present separately key recyclables (paper, glass, metals and plastics) and food waste from their premises as already introduced by the Scottish Government.
5 Establish a statutory duty for local authorities to publish an End Destination Register for Waste and Recyclate and extend the duty to their contractors to provide the necessary data, as part of a necessary move to improve public confidence in the recycling process by generating greater transparency of operations.
6 Establish a ban on the collection of glass commingled with other recyclates, expressly requiring glass to be separately collected (including sorted at the kerbside) to significantly improve the quality and reduce the contamination in many collection systems that mix glass to the detriment of all other materials use.
7 Implement a fresh approach to identifying ‘demand-pull’ measures to catalyse demand for products that utilise recyclate. We propose again a new Resources Industry Infrastructure Action Plan that identifies the next actions needed on recycling market development, building on the original work and remit of WRAP and examining all necessary aspects of action needed – including assessment of barriers as well as opportunities. It should include assessment of fiscal measures that could accelerate re-use and recycling including use of recycled content (except for metals where it is considered an inappropriate policy measure). It should also undertake urgent research into the feasibility of legislation for minimum recycled content in key product streams, prioritising those most urgently in need of underpinning with legislation such as plastic bottles. It should also commission an independent review of product design in relation to barriers to recyclability, and identify a ‘route map to recyclability’ for those products that currently utilise material combinations that militate against effective recycling (allowing for certain exemptions such as certain medical products). If voluntary agreements to change product design prove too slow, legislation should be used to prohibit specific material combinations in products, in line with the review.
8 Commitment of new investment to tackle waste crime at home and illegal exports of waste sent as recyclate, recognising the value to HM Treasury of increasing tax revenue by reducing tax evasion through waste crime. We urge Government to direct regulators to adopt a consistent approach to enforcement of export rules for recyclate and strong targeting of real waste criminals.
9 Undertake a full review of the Packaging Recovery Note system for producer responsibility for packaging and packaging waste, in the context of the future needs of a resources strategy – with completion of necessary reforms to the issue of PERN to create fairer trading conditions for UK reprocessors.
10 Undertake a review of public procurement rules, not just to identify and remove barriers to the procurement of recycled products, but to establish minimum standards guidance for procurement of resource collection services, to include sensible and sustainable need for communications, education and enforcement costs to be established as essential requirements and the establishment of a duty on local authorities to market recyclable materials in line with current recognised industry quality standards. The Scottish Excel Procurement Programme provides a valuable exemplar and we advocate adoption of similar for England, Northern Ireland and Wales with the extension of the proposed ‘marketing duty’ to Scotland as well.