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Defra cutbacks draw concern from waste sector

Key figures in waste recycling have expressed concern about new resource minister Dan Rogerson’s announcement of Defra plans to decrease its policy and funding activities in the sector, Collect and Recycle (https://www.collectandrecycle.com) reports.

A recent letter by Mr Rogerson to members of the industry asserted that although waste was still “one of his priorities”, limited finances would force the Department to concentrate on only essential areas of work.

While the Resource Association, Environmental Services Association (ESA) and Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM) all sympathised with the funding shortfall faced by the government, they warned of the adverse impact that the reduction in support could have on various areas, such as the level of waste crime and local authorities’ ability to improve recycling rates.

CIWM director Steve Lee said that the “strong progress” thus far made on recycling could be threatened by cutbacks in local authority support.

He said, in words that will doubtless find agreement among many other waste services stakeholders: “There are areas where government has to take a lead role, particularly in the interface with consumers. Local authorities are facing unprecedented budgetary pressures and while efficiency savings are essential, waste is a frontline service that doesn’t sit still.”

Mr Lee went on to highlight the pressure that councils were under to not only improve recycling rates, but also tackle food waste, take more responsibility for waste prevention and respond to the Waste Framework Directive’s requirements to increase and improve the quality of recycling.

Meanwhile, Barry Dennis, director general at the ESA, said that while the government’s resource restraints were understood by ESA Members, there was a danger of the Environment Agency’s efforts to tackle waste crime being undermined, which would be harmful to not only the environment and local communities, but also legitimate businesses.

Mr Dennis added: “Only if waste crime is kept to a minimum will ESA members be able to make the substantial investment needed to develop new facilities to recover and recycle waste properly.”

Other major figures in UK recycling to express concern over the plans included David Palmer-Jones, the ESA chairman and SITA UK chief executive who suggested that the government’s call for a greater role from the private sector would not be heeded unless “firm action” was taken in the implementation and enforcement of regulation.

Praise did come from the Resource Association’s chief executive Ray Georgeson for Mr Rogerson’s “directness and honesty”, but he also expressed concern, suggesting there was a “real danger” of a message being sent to both investors and the public that “the government is disengaging.”

But Mr Georgeson did take heart from the minister’s attempts to reassure the waste collections industry, and said that greater clarity on the MRF regulations would make “a good starting point”.

Collect and Recycle (https://www.collectandrecycle.com) will continue to bring you the latest news relating to the sector, including the responses of major players, as we also cater for even the most specialised business waste needs with our cost-effective, efficient and compliant services.