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The UK Government’s Resources and Waste strategy for England paper published

The UK Government’s Resources and Waste strategy for England paper was published by Defra on 18th December 2018.

Introduction

The Government Resource and Waste strategy forms part of the 25 Year Environment Plan, in which the UK Government committed to leave the environment in a better condition for the next generation. In the paper the UK Government references the importance of “Natural capital”. Recognising the importance of the country’s natural assets it emphasises the value to the UK economy, environment and society of high quality air, water and land resources. It acknowledges the stock of finite material resources that are integral to our daily lives.

The strategy sets out how the Government intends to preserve this Natural capital by minimising waste, promoting resource efficiency and moving towards a circular economy (fig 1). In parallel the UK Government intends to minimise the damage caused to the natural environment by reducing and managing waste safely and carefully, and by tackling waste crime. Known problem areas such as packaging waste will be targeted to help meet these aims.

Transitioning to a more circular economy by seeking to maximise resource efficiency and minimise the amount of waste society creates, the Government hopes to maximise the value of raw materials in circulation and the goods that we use, through policy that moves society away from the inefficient ‘linear’ economic model of ‘take, make, use, throw’.

Fig 1. The Circular Economy Model

circular-economy-model.png#asset:327203:regular

The waste management sector has responded positively to the paper with Veolia’s chief technology and innovation officer stating “The Government has listened to industry, and these steps have the clear potential to dramatically change the way the sector operates to increase recycling and recovery rates. Consistent collections and advanced facilities mean that more recyclable materials can be collected for reprocessing into new products”.

What the Resources and Waste Strategy Promises

The strategy, launched by Environment secretary Michael Gove, consists of eight sections covering sustainable production, assisting consumers, resource recovery and waste management, waste crime, food waste, international leadership, research and data monitoring.

The strategy promises to ensure that producers will pay the net costs of disposal or recycling of packaging, representing an increase from the 10% share of costs currently paid.

It further includes a commitment to review producer responsibility schemes for items that are difficult or expensive to recycle such as cars, electrical goods, batteries as well as seeking to extend producer responsibility schemes to include textiles, fishing gear, vehicle tyres, certain materials from construction and demolition, and bulky waste such as mattresses, furniture and carpets.

The introduction of a consistent set of recyclable materials collected from all households and businesses combined with consistent labelling on packaging will let people know what they can recycle and how.

Other commitment include weekly food waste collections and inclusion of free garden waste collections (both subject to consultation) and the introduction of deposit return schemes, subject to consultation, for bottles, cans and disposable cups filled at point of sale.

Improving enforcement on the illegal movement of waste by introducing compulsory electronic tracking of waste combined with tougher penalties for waste criminals is hoped to reduce fly tipping, poorly managed waste sites and avoiding damage to the environment as a result of uncontrolled waste management activities.

Impact on business

The strategy invokes the ‘polluter pays’ principle and extend producer responsibility for packaging, ensuring that producers pay the full costs of disposal for packaging they place on the market. Under extended producer responsibility (EPR), the full net costs of disposing or recycling packaging will be paid by the producers, up from the current 10%.

Defra estimates EPR for packaging will raise between £0.5bn and £1bn a year. EPR will also see manufacturers paying higher fees if their products are difficult to reuse, repair or recycle.

Extending producer responsibility schemes to sectors not currently covered is likely. Bulky waste such as car tyres, construction materials, carpets, mattresses and furniture are very much in focus.

The Government is also considering looking at mandatory guarantees and extended warranties to encourage manufacturers to design products that last. There is also discussion of setting minimum requirements through eco-design to encourage resource efficient product design.

The Government hopes to stimulate demand for recycled plastic by introducing a tax on plastic packaging with less than 30% recycled plastic.

Currently, certain materials are hard to recycle at end of life due to the presence of certain chemicals. The Government plans to implement a Chemicals Strategy that address barriers to reuse and recycling posed by their use.

High quality data, information and insights are viewed as essential for effective policy making. As such the Government intends to move away from weight-based towards impact-based targets and reporting, focusing initially on carbon and natural capital accounting.

Potential impact on furniture industry

A number of the proposed policies are likely to impact the furniture industry, namely;

  • Increased costs on businesses as a result of increasing obligations under the package compliance scheme.
  • Certain materials currently in the furniture supply chain could be removed if they contain chemicals that prevent recycling.
  • Potential for a furniture specific extended producer responsibility scheme to target bulky waste.
  • Single use plastic bags used in furniture packaging likely to be taxed if they contain less than 30% recycled content.
  • Mandatory guarantees on new product sales to promote long lasting products that will also encourage refurbishment and remanufacturing.

The Furniture Industry Research Association, both separately and as part of the British Furniture Confederation, has attended meetings with DEFRA to consult on a number of the proposals raised in the Government paper. The Association also undertaken research work as part of the Circular Economy Programme of work that directly relates to some of the proposals.

The Association continues to support sustainability within the furniture industry via its participation in the Furniture Industry Sustainability Programme (FISP) and via funding of research projects that promote circular economy activities within the sector.

For more information contact Stuart Cochrane scochrane@fira.co.uk

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