Jonathan Short, founder of ECO Plastics, appeared in front of the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee inquiry yesterday and said that government cuts have led to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to pull back from making policy reforms, just at the point when they are needed the most.
England’s progress towards the EU target of recycling 50 percent of household waste has slowed significantly, rising just 0.1 percent in the 12 months to June 2013 to reach 43.3 percent, ECO Plastics says.
At the same time, figures from WRAP, the government funded body set up to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill, show that only 19 percent of the 600 million metric tons of total products and materials entering the UK economy each year are recycled, creating a significant opportunity for higher recycling rates.
Short says the government should take action in three ways in order to drive change.
First, the current system of incentives that encourage companies to recycle needs urgent reform, he says. The Packaging Recycling Notes (PRNs) and Packaging Export Recycling Notes (PERNs) system encourages the export of resource waste ahead of domestic recycling, placing UK reprocessing companies at a commercial disadvantage. As a result, diminished financial returns hinder investment in reprocessing infrastructure. Furthermore, on-going uncertainty over crucial legislation, particularly export regulations, means that the finance community is highly unlikely to feel comfortable enough to provide the capital to fund further projects.
Second, he says the government needs to put recycling — and the creation of a sustainable, circular economy — at the center of economic policy. Growing the recycling sector to deliver a circular economy not only retains the economic value of resource waste in the UK; it also helps develop an economy that is self-sufficient and secure.
Finally, he says that the government should do more to make it easier for households to recycle resource waste by using the controversial plastic bag tax to fund a nationwide public awareness campaign.