... and exhale slowly. It is almost hard to remember what life was like before the consultations were released. But, now the deadline for the consistent collections consultation has passed, and we will all get back to keeping services running and getting stuff recycled. And initially not a lot will change and perhaps we will start to wonder what all the fuss was about, or maybe even forget that we had consultations at all.
There will be a lull while the governments analyse all the information and views they have received before they come back to us and the rest of the industry with their initial thoughts of the next steps. Even then it is unlikely we will have a clear direction and timetable on things like food waste collections, EPR payments, not to mention, if we will be facing free garden waste collections or not.
Looking back at the first consultation on consistent collections in 2019 the LARAC submission was 35 pages long. This time around it was 63 pages long. Some of that is accounted for by the fact there were more questions asked in 2021, but it is mostly a reflection of the importance this one has; the last big chance to input views, at least in a formal consultation.
You have been very firm in your views on free garden waste and so we have reflected that in our submission and been very clear that we think it is a waste of funding. Put that funding into food waste collections, communications and enforcement and it will have a much bigger impact. We will wait to see if others in the industry share that view or not, But given it is a proposal that rests solely on local authorities, then our voices should carry a lot of weight.
The consultation had some challenging timescales for introducing new services, such as food waste and plastic film. These services will get introduced; LARAC supports them being introduced, but the timescales in the consultation are not realistic. The infrastructure to support both is not there and is not likely to be there by the given dates. Whether Defra takes this on board remains to be seen. It is telling that Defra was unwilling to make the consultation period 12 weeks because they were worried about achieving deadlines in three years’ time. There is a feeling that the timetable is based on what wants to be achieved rather than what can be achieved.
Although the consultations may be over there will still be an awful lot of work to be done during the next three years as the details of how DRS, EPR and consistent collections are all implemented, are worked through and finalised. LARAC intends to be in the thick of those discussions and working hard to ensure that local authorities are not short changed and that their concerns and issues are listened to and taken on board. There will be another consultation on the specifics of the statutory guidance of English authorities relating to consistent collections, probably in the second part of 2022. Before then there will be lots of working groups and meetings going on to try and fit all these pieces together.
All this means it should make for an interesting debate when we get to the LARAC Conference in Birmingham in October. It still feels a bit strange to think we might be a room with other people, talking face to face and not having to worry about the mute button being on or off. But it is also quite exciting to think that we can have a chat about all the changes that are being proposed and that we can discuss and debate what they mean and how they might happen.
Until then we will continue working on your behalf, putting across your views and trying to ensure that the future policy and legislation is fair and reasonable for local authorities and gives us the tools and funding to do the job well.