Government steps up drive to hit recycling targets

A high powered Steering Group set up to push ahead with the goals of the Waste Implementation Group, plus a beefed up role for WRAP in waste reduction and recycling on the domestic front, make up a two-pronged attack on the rising waste mountain. Allied to the Government's backing for Joan Ruddock's Kerbside Recycling Bill and extra funding for recycling schemes, local authorities and waste services providers can look forward to a continuing drive to meet the UK's recycling targets. LAWE's annual Recycling Sector Review runs in parallel with our extensive Preview of the Recycling and Waste Management Exhibition to be held at the NEC next month

A new top level Steering Group has been established by the Government to drive delivery of Defra’s waste minimisation, re-use and recycling objectives under the new Waste Implementation Programme (WIP). The programme was announced by Defra on 6 May as part of the government’s response to the Strategy Unit report Waste Not, Want Not.

David Varney, Chairman of mmO2, a leading provider of mobile services, will chair the group, which will comprise the following independent members with expertise and interest in the key areas of the programme: Lynton Barker, Hedra; Vic Cocker, WRAP; Dan Corry, New Local Government Network; Fiona Driscoll, Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit; Sir John Harman, Environment Agency; Maxine Holdsworth, National Consumer Council; Andy Moore, Community Recycling Network; David North, Tesco; David Riddle, Environmental Services Association ; John Schultz, Stockport Council; Gordon Shields, Shields Environmental PLC; Bill Stow, DEFRA; and Cllr Kay Twitchen, Essex County Council and currently Chair of Local Government Association Waste Executive.

The Steering Committee will oversee delivery of the new Waste Implementation Programme, designed to take forward the package of strategic measures recommended by the Strategy Unit and to help the UK move towards sustainable waste management.

The Committee will report to Margaret Beckett, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and work closely with Elliot Morley, Minister of State for Environment.

Mr Morley said: “It is vital that we bring about a step change in our waste performance. The amount of waste currently sent to landfill is unsustainably high and we need to take immediate action to remedy this. The impact of this programme will be far-reaching and will affect every householder in the country”

The Steering Committee will sit for an initial term of twelve months, after which it will be subject to a review.

Expanded role for WRAP

The Government has also enlarged WRAP’s remit in further moves to stem the rising tide of waste. WRAP has recently been allocated a further £16.5 million for three new programmes for 2003/4, focusing on waste minimisation, recycling and composting best practice, and raising awareness.

WRAP will start work this summer on an initial (2003/4) £16.5 million set of new programmes as part of a new Government push to reduce waste and recycle more. The highlights of these programmes are:

  • reducing waste at home : features include a big increase in home composting (providing 250,000 extra homes with a compost bin this year), reducing nappy waste by helping business start-ups in nappy washing services, working with the big retailers to reduce supermarket waste and a waste minimisation innovation research fund to help with this. In 2003/4, funding of around £8 million is allocated to this work.

  • recycling and composting more: by setting up an advisory service to help councils make their recycling schemes more effective, and providing support for the composting industry to expand to absorb the extra material collected. In 2003/4, funding of around £3.5 million is allocated to this work.

  • engaging the public: by raising awareness of the need to reduce waste and recycle more, particularly by helping councils to get the most out of their collection schemes by promoting them effectively. In 2003/4, funding of around £3 million is allocated to this work.

Commenting on the announcement, WRAP’s Chairman, Vic Cocker said: “We are delighted that the Government has demonstrated its commitment to recycling by recommending the continuation of our core activity to create markets for recycled resources. This remains at the heart of WRAP and underpins all our work. The new responsibilities given to us for waste minimisation, recycling best practice and awareness will mean WRAP takes a ‘three-pronged’ approach to the problem – minimising waste must go alongside increasing recycling and composting, and creating markets for materials collected if we are to achieve the challenging targets set to reduce landfill.”

Packaging waste targets set

Proposals to set UK businesses new targets for the recovery and recycling of packaging waste have been published by DEFRA.

The consultation paper contains proposed revisions to the business recovery and recycling targets for packaging waste for the next four years, from 1 January 2004 until 31 December 2008.

The current business targets are 59% overall recovery and 19% material specific recycling. The proposed EU targets following the second reading vote in the European Parliament earlier this month are: minimum target of 60% for overall recovery of packaging waste and of 55% for overall recycling. Minimum recycling targets for each material as follows: 60% for glass and paper / board; 50% for metals; 22.5% for plastics and 15% for wood: targets to be met by a deadline of 31 December 2008. Minister for the Environment, Elliot Morley said: ” The amount of packaging waste which is recycled in the UK will have to increase – not only if we are to achieve the challenging objectives set out in the Government’s Waste Strategy 2000 but also to meet the higher EU packaging targets by 2008.

“I believe that the present UK system can deliver the required results, provided that those with legal obligations carry these out, but there are areas in which changes could be made. We are working towards a more efficient and effective system which can give us greater confidence in our ability to deliver the next Directive targets”.

The consultation paper not only considers the likely Directive targets but also takes into account other issues, some of which were recommended by the Advisory Committee on Packaging (ACP).

The main changes put forward in the consultation paper are:

  • that the system for the accreditation of reprocessors to issue PRNs (and exporters to issue PERNs) should be set down in statute and brought within the Regulations; and the PRN and PERN should also be set down in statute;

  • that legal responsibility should be placed on compliance scheme operators for the recovery and recycling obligations of their members;

  • that the system of approval of schemes by the relevant Minister should be set down in statute, and there should be circumstances in which approval needs to be renewed;

  • that changes should be made to ensure that pack/filling and selling obligations are picked up on leased and internal supply packaging;

  • that changes should be made to the registration fee structure so that costs additional to those for handling routine registration and data provision should be charged to those who cause the Agencies to incur the extra costs;

  • that registration options for groups of companies should remain as now, but be accompanied by a fee premium per subsidiary business to cover monitoring costs;

  • that the ‘special producer’ provisions should be removed from the Regulations to simplify the Regulations and improve data submission;

  • that there should be a new, compulsory table to require information on reusable packaging; and that there might be agreed percentages for the amount of certain reusables which are deemed to be on their first trip;

  • that the Agencies should undertake an increased level of monitoring.

LARAC responses

LARAC has cast a very critical eye over the recent Advisory Committee on Packaging (ACP) Report during the policy discussions at its latest Executive meeting in Birmingham. LARAC was represented on the ACP but feels the final report reflects the large involvement of the packaging sector. LARAC is particularly concerned about calls for packaging recovery targets on local authorities when they already have their own recycling targets to meet. There is a feeling that producers are once again looking to shift their responsibilities on to local government rather than engaging in serious partnership working arrangements. Whilst there is a large amount of packaging in the household waste stream that local authorities can help producers recover, this does not mean Producer Responsibility shifts on to local authorities. The suggestions that central funding currently being provided to local authorities to help them meet their own targets should be used to collect the lighter fractions of packaging is also misplaced, says LARAC arguing that is what the PRN system is there for.

Steve Palfrey, LARAC Policy Officer, said, “LARAC does highlight the complementary nature of the household and packaging targets and some of the funding schemes, reiterating that local authorities are happy to work with producers, business and compliance schemes to increase the amount of household packaging that is recovered. LARAC also commends the ACP for proposing targets to 2008 as this allows the time for partnership working to be planned and implemented and for the required infrastructure to be put in place. LARAC has recently written to the Minister for the Environment, Elliot Morley to raise these issues and will be examining and responding to the latest DEFRA consultation document that is based on the ACP report.

Grants welcomed

However, LARAC has welcomed the recent announcement by the Environment Minister that an extra £24 million in grants is going towards local authority recycling schemes. The local authority recycling body considers that is doubly pleasing that the money is going to those that narrowly missed out on the £140 million fund.

Andy Doran, Chair LARAC, said: “The fact that the money is going to existing bids means it is likely to be utilised extremely quickly.

“The only stumbling block may be the ability of suppliers to cope with even more demand on top of that created by the initial awards under the £140 million fund. LARAC would hope that time scales within which these funds have to be spent and arrangements for reporting will be eased in future rounds, making sure that the money can be spent as desired.”

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