Tax breaks on recycled content set for inclusion in UK’s Resources and Waste Strategy

Increased rates of tax on virgin materials, coupled with tax breaks for manufacturers using recycled content in their products, are set to be included in the Government's new Resources and Waste Strategy (RWS), a Defra official has revealed.

Speaking at the launch of an Aldersgate Group report into waste management in London yesterday (July 19), Defra’s deputy director of waste and recycling, Chris Preston, confirmed the measures alongside eco-modulated fees, claiming the moves will “stimulate the nation’s market for secondary materials”.

“The focus on how we look at resources and waste has shifted from just waste streams and post-use recycling to move things further up the product lifecycle,” Preston said.

“What we do with items at the end of life is where policies generally tend to be more developed as this is where thought has been in the past, but what we want to create is a coherent, end-to-end approach to managing our resources in a more efficient way.”

The much-anticipated RWS, which the Government previously claimed would “make the UK a world leader in terms of competitiveness, resource productivity and resource efficiency”, is due for publication by the end of 2018, after a series of delays.

While explaining that the document would facilitate the “coming together” of the Clean Growth StrategyIndustrial Strategy and 25-year Environment Plan, to provide a “more coherent roadmap”, Preston also mooted that a deposit return scheme would be included in the strategy in addition to a “refreshed approach” to waste crime.

He additionally confirmed the inclusion of a consultation on whether the nation’s packaging recovery note (PRN) system should be reformed to boost transparency and drive better product design – a move the likes of the Foodservice Packaging Association, Incpen and WRAP have been campaigning for.

The final detail revealed by Preston was a new approach to packaging which would see companies take on extended producer responsibility for the materials they use to house products.

No time to waste

The announcement from Preston came at the launch of the Aldersgate Group’s No Time to Waste: An Effective RWS report, which sets out six recommendations as to what should be included in the RWS.

Alongside calls for tax incentives, the report also calls for “clear policy direction” that updates the RWS every five years to support business ambitions related to resource efficiency. Notably, the report calls for standards to be set that mandate resource efficiency in the manufacturing process that are “at least as stringent as those developed in the EU”.

The Group claims its recommendations could boost resource efficiency, curb environmental impacts and deliver £76bn of Gross Value Added (GVA) by 2030.

Aldersgate Group’s lead policy manager Victoria Fleming-Williams said: “Resource-efficient business models are proven to generate significant financial, material, natural resource and greenhouse gas savings, all of which are essential to deliver the government’s goals in the Industrial Strategy, 25 Year Environment Plan and Clean Growth Strategy.

“It’s high time for resource efficiency to cease to be an overlooked area of policy and for government to use the public procurement, regulatory and fiscal levers at its disposal to make the UK economy a world-leading resource efficient economy.” 

During the meeting, leaders from the Group’s member businesses quizzed Preston and suggested several measures they wanted to see included in the hotly-debated scheme.

Representing the retail sector, Kingfisher’s head of sustainability, Caroline Laurie, said Defra must be in “constant communication” with corporates while creating the RWS to ensure it is “compatible with business demands”.

Specifically, she urged Defra to ensure the strategy rewarded more sustainable design, facilitated investment in recycling collection units for businesses and aligned with existing EU strategies.

From the waste management sector, SUEZ’s director of external affairs, Adam Read, called for the strategy to champion better infrastructure to facilitate business demand.

Read claimed that by building UK markets for materials, the economy could tap into £9bn of value, but added that this could only be achieved by building more than 100 new waste processing facilities, including 20 CHP plants, up to 40 anaerobic digestion sites and at least five materials recycling facilities (MRFs).

Finally, from the built environment sector, Willmott Dixon’s Re-Thinking director Julia Barrett advised Preston to ensure that the RWS would not “wither and die with changes of Government”, adding it should “map out” not just what businesses should do to champion circular economy principles, but how they could change their models to achieve this aim.

Defra’s Preston responded by claiming that the RWS would be “very much a live document looking at a series of policy interventions over a number of years, making a strategic direction that many people have called for.”

“The zeitgeist for [an updated RWS] has never been better; businesses and consumers are becoming more considerate of the environment than ever and the Government will have to act quickly so as not to miss the opportunity to capitalise on this.”

Sarah George

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