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Legislation update – Autumn 2017

21st November 2017 Posted by

In autumn edition of our quarterly Legislation Update we look at a number of key pieces of legislation, upcoming legislative changes, government initiatives and what this industry news mean for you and your business.

Deposit return scheme to be adopted in Scotland

Having commissioned a detailed study into a deposit return scheme (DRS) for drinks containers, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed that Scotland would be introducing a scheme at some point in the future.

Defra has launched a Call for Evidence over the possibility of imposing a deposit on drinks containers in England. A Voluntary and Economic Incentives Working Group has been established to look at voluntary ways to target particular types of items or products and to consider regulatory options and measures. The scope of the enquiry focuses on “commonly littered but potentially high-value drinks containers”, with the aim to “understand the full picture of costs and impacts, benefits and disadvantages of deposit and reward and return schemes or other policy instruments for drinks containers.”

Our External Affairs Director, Adam Read, expressed his views on the subject in a recent blog post.

Retention of PRN system

A review by Defra of the packaging recovery note (PRN) system in the UK has recommended that the current system should be retained. The PRN system operates within the Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations to ensure that the UK meets annual packaging waste recycling and recovery targets required by the EU Packaging Directive. The review found that the Regulations continue to ensure that the UK meets the requirements of the Directive at a relatively low cost to businesses, and was expected to do so at least until the UK’s exit from the EU. The review recommends that the current system remain until 2020 and possibly beyond.
The Regulatory Policy Committee, which provides external, independent scrutiny of regulatory and deregulatory proposals, gave the review a green rating of “fit for purpose”, but noted that Defra could have “provided more detail to support the Department’s claim that there were no unintended consequences from the regulations.” It also stated that the review would have benefited further from more comparative analysis of the impact of the measure in other EU member states

Defra’s litter fund

Defra launched a Litter Innovation Fund worth nearly £500,000 for community projects to tackle littering. The Fund will support local areas to reduce littering by enabling local authorities, community groups, charities, educational institutions, and SMEs to finance ‘innovative and creative solutions’ to the problem. Litter campaigns and recycling work will be promoted under the new funding proposals.

China’s Operation National Sword 2017

China has notified the World Trade Organization that it will stop accepting shipments of waste plastic and unsorted paper by the end of 2017, as part of
a campaign against “foreign garbage”, which it says is polluting China’s environment through contamination. The ban will also cover slag from steelmaking, and many kinds of waste wool, ash, cotton and yarn. In 2016 China imported 7.3 million tonnes of waste plastics, accounting for 56% of world imports. It is still unclear whether the ban would be unconditional or allow materials meeting stricter quality limits. Operation National Sword 2017 follows Operation Green Fence, launched in 2013 to reduce the amount of poor quality waste entering Chinese ports from overseas.

Retailers report reduction in plastic bag use

WRAP announced that seven major retailers issued 83% fewer bags in 2016/2017 compared to 2014, equivalent to around 25 bags per person during 2016/2017, compared to around 140 bags a year before the charge. Of the 168 retailers which provided data for donations made to good causes, over £66 million was donated, amounting to 4p for every single-use bag sold by them.
Since October 2015 large retailers in England have been required by law to charge 5p for all single-use plastic carrier bags. Information on donations is provided on a voluntary basis.

Government responds to microbeads consultation

The government has published their response to the consultation on a proposed microbeads ban in cosmetic products in England. It is proposed that the ban on manufacture will start from 1 January 2018 and the ban on sales from 30 June 2018. Definitions of “microbead”, “plastic” and “rinse-off personal care product” have been developed to clearly define the scope of the ban. Trading Standards will be the regulator to manage compliance and enforcement in England. Enforcement will include a range of sanctions: variable monetary penalties, compliance notices, stop notices and enforcement undertakings. The Devolved Administrations are considering appropriate enforcement mechanisms, regulators and timescales according to devolution settlements. Legislation to implement this ban will be introduced later in 2017.
The European Commission is also consulting on policy options to reduce microplastics entering the marine environment. SUEZ recognises that the protection of the oceans is a global issue and as a commited organisation we launched #suez4ocean campaign mobilising teams around the globe to participate in a world-wide marine waste collection project.

Government to support waste fuels BA project

The Department of Transport is offering £22 million to projects in the UK developing low carbon waste-based fuels for planes and lorries that are too heavy to switch to electric power, with matching funding from industry. The announcement follows the government’s plans to ban all new petrol and diesel cars by 2040 and grants to encourage the use of ultra-low-emission electric cars. The department claims that planes and lorries powered by waste fuels could use up to 90% less carbon than traditional fossil fuels, providing a business worth £600 million a year to the British economy by 2030, supporting up to 9,800 new jobs.

On 18 September 2017, a partnership between British Airways, the UK’s largest international airline, Velocys plc (VLS.L), the renewable fuels company, Norma, an affiliate of Ervington Investments, Velocys’ largest investor and SUEZ was formed to prepare the business case for a waste to renewable jet fuel plant in the UK.

London Assembly Environment Committee report

The London Assembly Environment Committee has investigated London’s waste generation, handling and disposal, focusing on waste reduction and the circular economy, recycling, and energy from waste. In Waste: The circular economy the Committee recommends that London’s adoption of the circular economy model would reduce the amount of waste generated, minimise the depletion of natural resources, reduce its carbon emissions, create new job opportunities and boost London’s economic activity. The Mayor needed to take a visible lead in pushing the circular economy forward and ensure organisations in the GLA Group procure goods and services in line with its principles.

London’s draft Environment Plan link

The Mayor of London is consulting on an Environment Plan, including a number of waste targets and standards. They contain (a) setting minimum recycling and food waste standards for London’s waste authorities to meet by 2020, (b) establishing stronger rules to cut pollution from managing and disposing of waste in London, (c) cutting food waste by 20% by 2025, (d) working with business to prevent waste, including investigating deposit return or community water refill schemes, (e) promoting shared waste collection services to businesses and others, (f) ensuring there are sufficient sites to manage waste in London. The Plan aims for no biodegradable or recyclable waste to be sent to landfill by 2026, and for recycling 65% of London’s municipal waste by 2030.

Defra announces renewed resource strategy

Environment Secretary Michael Gove announced plans for a renewed strategy on waste and resources that will “look ahead to opportunities outside the EU”, aimed at reducing the amount of plastic entering oceans, improving incentives for reducing waste and litter and a review of the penalties available to deal with polluters. He also highlighted how the government could adopt new ways of incentivising recycling based on “the environmental impact and value of the material, rather than a crude weight-based target that focuses recycling on things that happen to be heavy”. A renewed waste and resource strategy will be part of the government’s wider ambitions to make the UK a world leader in environmental protection, despite its departure from the EU.

Local authorities increase spending on waste

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) announced that English councils have budgeted around £3.6 billion in 2017-18 for waste collection and disposal, recycling, waste minimisation and trade waste, a growth of 5% over two years. The cost of recycling in 2017-18 is expected to reach £611 million compared with £590 million in 2015-16 and £569 million in 2016-17. Profits from trade waste services are expecting to reach £38 million in 2016-17. Waste collection for 2017-18 stands at £841 million. In 2015 a series of local authority budget cuts led to spending in England on waste collection and recycling shrinking by 12.2% and 7.6%, respectively.

LGA call for changes to tendering

The Local Government Association (LGA) has called for simpler rules “regulating how councils buy goods and services after Brexit… [to] boost local growth and create jobs”. The value of local authority work is estimated at £55 billion annually. The proposals include giving councils greater ability to use local suppliers, specify a minimum local living wage for their suppliers’ employees, or specify additional social value so that companies awarded contracts can be asked to employ or train a number of local people. Presently, councils have to follow the EU tendering process. The LGA calls for a “lighter-touch” system which simplifies this process and provides more flexibilities to promote local growth, so that councils can procure to shorter timescales and lower high administration costs for businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises.

2016 gate fees report

WRAP’s annual Gate Fees Report for 2016 shows a drop in material recovery facilities (MRF), anaerobic digestion (AD), and energy-from-waste (EfW) gate fees compared to 2015, whilst landfill gate fees increased. In-vessel composting (IVC) and wood waste gate fees remained stable. The survey covered gate fees charged to local authorities in the UK for a range of municipal waste recycling, recovery, treatment, and disposal options. Some commercial gate fees were also provided by organic and wood waste treatment facilities. The median gate fee paid by local authorities for MRF services showed an overall drop from £25 per tonne in 2015 to £15 per tonne for the calendar year of 2016. It is expected that MRF gate fees will continue to fluctuate year-on-year, dictated by changes in commodity prices. Whilst gate fees for IVC remained on a par with previous years at £43 per tonne, AD gate fees were notably lower. EfW gate fees continued to decrease, from £86 per tonne in 2015 to £83 per tonne in 2016, suggesting a slow softeningof fees. Landfill saw an increase in gate fees with a median non-hazardous landfill gate fee (including landfill tax) of £107 per tonne in 2016 compared to £102 per tonne in 2015.

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