Government rejects parliamentary committee’s call to ban food waste from landfill

The Government has rejected calls, made by the Environmental Audit Committee, to require new products to be recyclable and to ban food waste going to landfill to help stimulate the circular economy.

In its report entitled ‘Ending the Throwaway Society: Growing a Circular Economy’, published in July, the cross-party Environmental Audit Committee called for lower VAT on recycled products, a phased-in requirement for new products to be recyclable and greater standardisation of waste collection services, including a ban on food waste being sent to landfill.

In its response the Government said it agreed that it had “a role to play in developing [a circular economy]” but rejected recommendations made by the Committee to introduce greater standardisation in collection systems, to compel councils to adopt household food waste collections and to require new products to be recyclable.

The Government argues that because VAT is governed by European law, any reliefs from VAT are strictly limited and there are no specific provisions that allow for actions to encourage the use of recyclable materials.

However, Member States are allowed to implement a reduced rate of VAT for certain goods and services and the UK has previously reduced VAT rates on new build construction materials, energy and the professional installation of energy-saving products.

Recyclable materials

Environmental Audit Committee chair Joan Walley MP said: “If the Government is unable to introduce differential VAT rates on recycled products under existing arrangements, Ministers should make the case for a change in the rules at an EU level as part of the discussions due to take place on the Commission’s Circular Economy proposals.”

Walley added that breaking the link between primary resource use and economic growth “is essential if we want to create a truly sustainable economic system”.

She explained: “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 re-use. Materials and products that cannot be recycled should be phased out altogether.”

‘Limited vision’

Resource Association chief executive Ray Georgeson said: “We commended the EAC for its important report and analysis, and share their disappointment at the response from the Government.

“What is clear from the directness of the Government response is how little appetite there appears to be for vital policy changes needed to accelerate the circular economy and end the throwaway society – but we knew this already.

“Like many other stakeholders in the waste and resources sector, we find this exasperating, as the potential for genuine waste reduction, resource efficiency and green growth with the carbon and jobs benefits that will accrue is still lower on the policy radar than we and many others would wish.

“In what are now the dog days of this Government I see little point in dwelling on the limited vision and severe policy hiatus that has characterised the tenure of successive Ministers and Secretaries of State.

“Our focus now has to be on working hard as an industry to construct a consensual alternative policy framework and ensuring that all political parties understand the genuine potential of our industry as the General Election looms.”

Liz Gyekye

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie