Brexit could lead to ‘backsliding’ on product design, recycling and chemicals safety

A business coalition which includes Boot and Kingfisher has warned that Brexit could result in a downgrade in domestic eco-design standards, an increase in the use of dangerous chemicals, and "backsliding" on recycling.

Led by think-tank Green Alliance, the group warns that leaving the EU’s REACH (Registration Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of Chemicals) regulation would mean “instant loss of access to a world-leading database on chemical safety covering more than 25,000 chemicals”.

Ministers must negotiate to maintain REACH and accept the jurisdiction of the EU Court of Justice in this area, contends the group, which includes the likes of Aquapak, Viridor and waste agency Wrap.

The Circular Economy Task Force also cautions that a divergence in eco-design standards could open up the UK market to second-rate products from other countries, and undermine British firms that still need to adhere to EU standards to trade with the continent.

No longer applying EU standards would “saddle consumers with the costs and inconvenience of shoddy goods”, insists the group, which highlights research that shows eco-design rules for products such as lighting, vacuum cleaners and boilers save UK households hundreds of pounds a year.

At a crossroads

In terms of recycling, there is no promise to replace the EU’s targets which expire in 2020. Progress could slip on recycling provision and result in the reopening of landfills unless ambitious new targets are put in place, according to the coalition. It identifies mandatory separate food waste collections and a plastic bottle deposit return scheme as ways to improve the UK’s resource management landscape.

“The resource policies we choose after Brexit will have a real effect on people’s lives,” Green Alliance senior policy adviser on resources Libby Peake said.

“We’re at a crossroads – we can either improve our protections and use of resources or revert to simple waste management. The wrong decisions could harm our environment, businesses and citizens.”

Green Brexit?

Environment Secretary Michael Gove has vowed to deliver a “green Brexit”. Last month, he confirmed that independent body to hold the Government to account over environmental standards post-Brexit will be established following a consultation early next year.

One of the key legislative pieces that Gove has had to work on since his announcement as Environment Secretary in June is the 25-year environment and food & farming plans. Last month, Gove told a Commons select committee that there would now be only one document published, which he said would be released either before Christmas or, at latest, in January 2018.

He assured MPs that the document would feature new policies in key areas such as recycling and biodiversity. He also hinted that the plan could see the Government step up its voluntary approach on food waste targets.

George Ogleby

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