Waste industry ‘in doldrums’ over Defra disengagement

Waste industry leaders have voiced grave concerns over plans by Defra to cut back its involvement in the sector following an announcement by the new resource minister Dan Rogerson this week.

Rogerson wrote to members of the waste industry informing them that his department will take more of a back seat on policy intervention and funding activity during the period 2014/15 due to financial pressures. He insisted however that waste remained “one of his priorities”.

Various trade bodies such as the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM), the Environmental Services Association (ESA) and the Resource Association have reacted with disappointment to this news.

CIWM chief executive Steve Lee argued that better support was required from government ministers in terms of the UK working towards zero waste, as negotiation at EU level will be critical in the coming years.

“We need to be in a position to deliver at a national level the more ambitious targets that are likely to result from the [European] Commission’s waste policy review,” he said.

“This will require robust policy, more infrastructure, better planning for waste at a strategic level, and better integration with energy, carbon, climate change and general business development policies. This can only be delivered by government.”

Meanwhile the ESA’s chairman David Palmer-Jones said government intervention was needed to create the right market conditions and levers to unlock the waste sector’s potential in contributing towards the green economy.

“Government’s call to the private sector to take the lead will come to nothing unless government continues to take firm action to implement and enforce regulation. With a looming capacity gap, flat lining recycling rates and difficult market conditions, Defra’s ongoing involvement is vital,” he maintained.

Resource Association chief executive Ray Georgeson echoed this, but added that it was right for government to step back where the business case for action is made.

“However, tone and signals are important and so as a first major announcement from [the minister] it does generate concerns, as there is a real danger it sends a negative message to investors and the public alike that the Government is disengaging.”

Maxine Perella

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