Gove launches Resource and Waste Strategy

21 DECEMBER 2018

The long-awaited Resource and Waste Strategy for England has now been published. It seeks to set the landscape for sustainability primarily out to 2030 but with proposals that go as far as 2050. Well beyond my intended retirement date.

The Strategy is divided into 8 key chapters:

  1. Sustainable production
  2. Helping consumers to take more action
  3. Recovering resources and managing waste
  4. Tackling waste crime
  5. Cutting down on food waste
  6. Global Britain
  7. Research and innovation
  8. Measuring progress

There are some headline proposals:

  • Mandatory food waste collection
  • Annual reporting of food surplus and waste by food businesses
  • Extended producer responsibility applying full cost recovery to producers and being applied to a range of new waste types
  • Reforming existing duty of care regulation including mandatory use of digital transfer and export documentation and a requirement for waste carriers and brokers to demonstrate tax registration 

These are on top of known proposals that will be consulted on in January:

  • Packaging waste legislation reform - regulations due in 2021 and in force 2023
  • Deposit Return System - roll out in 2023
  • Implementation of a household waste consistency requirement in the materials collected for recycling
  • 30% minimum recycled content on plastic packaging by 2022

Added all together, it is an ambitious programme of reform of regulation over the next 3-5 years which begs the question as to whether government - and Defra in particular - has the resources necessary to deliver such a programme.

There are some regrettable omissions:

  • Nothing on changing consumer culture through the inclusion of waste and litter in the curriculum
  • Nothing on stimulating investment in UK reprocessing and reducing dependence on export markets
  • Nothing on Pay As You Throw which seems to have been completely rejected as a means of changing behaviour

This Waste Strategy is a huge undertaking and the first that we have seen for England since 2010. At nearly 150 pages, it is not for the faint hearted but it is a welcome focus on an area that has been sadly lacking in political interest for too long.