Considering this is supposed to be the quiet time of year, when we all go off on our summer holidays, there has been a fair amount going on in the waste world. The small matter of a new Prime Minister has brought a new Environment Secretary, Michael Gove vacating the post, and Theresa Villiers coming in.
Whatever your view on Michael Gove, what cannot be denied is that he gave waste policy a kick that was sorely needed and has potentially started the next step change in how we go about collecting and disposing of products, packaging and organic waste. We in the industry had been bemoaning the lack of steer and direction for years so we could hardly complain when we got what we asked for. And I think broadly speaking most sectors within the industry are happy with the direction that the Resource and Waste Strategy has sent us off on. More consistency in the way packaging is produced, more funds coming from producers and a better support for communications. As is normally the case, when it gets down to the detail the disagreements will increase but out of that will come a new and hopefully improved system for managing and funding household waste across the UK.
The parting gift of Mr Gove was the release of the summaries of the responses to the big consultations from earlier in the year and an outline of some next steps by the Government. It was disappointing to see the push to implement a DRS when the overwhelming message from industry was to defer it and wait until we had seen what the changes in the consistency and EPR policy areas would bring. Of course, we don’t yet know if the change in Minister will bring about any sort of review and change of heart on this and other aspects of the Strategy. It is far too early yet to say, so we will wait and see what sort of statements the new Environment Secretary starts to come out with.
The consultation summaries and next steps were generally not too surprising. DEFRA want to push on with food waste collections and a core set of materials but appear to be rowing back on the idea of free garden waste, which we welcome. The picture is less clear on EPR with no real indication on which of the governance models DEFRA prefers at this stage.
What was pleasing was the volume of responses from local authorities to all four consultations. As an organisation we were very keen to try and mobilise local authorities to respond and it was part of the reason we put so much effort into getting information out to you and running the surveys and workshops. No one can say we all are not engaged in the debate.
While from the outside looking in it might feel like there will be a lull on this work for a time, we are already engaging with DEFRA on the next steps and starting to look at the detail that will really shape how we do things in the future. It will be an important two years coming up and as always we will be working hard on your behalf to try and make sure the local authority voice is heard.