Environment secretary Michael Gove has signalled that the government could implement measures to encourage investment in waste management technologies in its forthcoming waste strategy – news which has been long-awaited by the sector.
The announcement came on the second day of the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, where Mr Gove hinted at what might be expected in Defra’s waste and resource strategy to published later this year.
Referring to what he described as “a new front in the war against waste,” Mr Gove said: “We will take steps to make recycling easier, to invest in cleaner technologies, and take tougher action against the fly-tippers and the waste criminals who pollute our landscape and trash our blue planet.”
This is an example of the “determined, focussed and effective action” taken by the Conservative government to conserve the environment, Mr Gove suggested.
The environment secretary also took the opportunity to announce £15 million of funding for redistribution of surplus food.
In terms of the waste industry it is thought this could have some impact on anaerobic digestion, which has been seeing a consolidation over the past year.
“Every year millions of tonnes of good nutritious edible food is thrown away, this is an environmental, economic and moral folly and we will end it,” said Mr Gove.
“Working with industry and with charities we should be able to get 250 million extra meals a year on to the tables and plates of the most deserving in our society.”
On the plastics side, the environment secretary warned of the “danger” facing the environment from plastics.
Setting the scene, he explained that “the equivalent of a whole dumper truck of plastic is dropped in the sea every minute of every day.”
“Unless we change course, by the year 2050 the seas will contain more plastic than fish,” he said. “We cannot and will not allow that to happen.”
And, pointing to measures put in plastic to tackle plastics pollution, he added: “Already the plastic bag charge has cut the number distributed by almost 90%.”
The environment secretary also took the opportunity to thank the team at Defra, including Therese Coffey, for the “fantastic work that they do”.
Responding to Mr Gove’s announcement on funding for food redistribution, Alice Ellison, head of environment policy at the British Retail Consortium said the funding builds on the “pioneering strides” retailers have made in recent years in redistributing surplus food.
“The supply of surplus food from the retail industry to charities has more than doubled in just two years – the equivalent of an additional 15 million meals,” she said. “We will work with our members and the government, food businesses and the redistribution sector to facilitate and track progress.”
Putting the case for Local Authorities at a Policy Exchange event at the Conservative conference (day two) was Carole Taylor, LARAC Chair, talking on ‘Waste or Resource? Developing a whole system approach to delivering a circular economy'. Carole outlined the challenges of some of the waste solutions currently on the table and pointed out that LAs have done much to improve recycling across the UK in the past 15 years, and that shouldn’t be forgotten just because they have been forced to now operate in a very different and difficult financial environment. She emphasised that consistency of household collections is dependent upon consistency of materials coming in and then going on the market.