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Legislation update | Summer 2019

24th July 2019 Posted by

Posted by SUEZ recycling and recovery UK.

In this update, we focus on matters that were topical throughout the first half of 2019. From our responses to the Waste and Resources Strategy consultations to an overview of various initiatives designed to tackle issues around plastics, food waste and a growing textile problem. We look at a number of emerging laws and initiatives and what they mean for you.

Waste and Resources Strategy consultations

SUEZ recycling and recovery UK submitted detailed consultation responses on  13 May 2019, as well as extensively contributing to the submissions of both the CIWM and ESA.

The key messages in our responses concerned:

  • The need for the value chain to work together more effectively to innovate and solve the problems we face in terms of recycled content, UK reprocessing markets and the future labelling of packaging,
  • The need to focus more on how we can help consumers make the right choices and how we can reinforce the right behaviors in terms of purchasing decisions and recycling,
  • The need for bespoke targets that reflect local circumstances in each local authority area, and the need to avoid flat targets for England or the UK as a whole,
  • The need for EPR reform to be the primary agent of change and that any planned DRS proposals should wait to see the success and impact of the EPR reforms,
  • The need for a transition plan to help clarify what will happen and when, and to ensure that some early progress is supported and that new benchmarks are defined for others to follow.

We continue to engage with DEFRA directly, through the ESA and through some of the local authority trade bodies including ADEPT, LGA and LARAC. We are refining our position and working with our clients and will continue to share our insights, position and data to help DEFRA refine their thinking in the autumn of 2019.

We are expecting the second stage of consultations to be issued in December 2019, detailing the proposed EPR and DRS reforms and further exploring the plan for consistency and HM Treasury plastic tax.

New Environment Bill

DEFRA has been working on the details of the new Environment Bill which will replace EU legislation and regulation post BREXIT, creating a new environment watchdog and scrutiny process amongst other fundamental reforms.

It was expected that the final bill would go to Parliament before the summer recess, but due to the Conservative Party leadership campaign and the delaying of BREXIT the final bill is now expected to go before Parliament in September 2019.

SUEZ has been involved in a number of roundtables, think-tanks and lobby groups helping to respond to the consultation documents and prepare papers to promote specific aspects of the planned governance, targets and legal protocols. We were a signatory alongside the ESA and other leading environmental bodies in a letter to the Secretary of State which called for targets and outcomes to be embedded in the bill so that government could be held to account.

We have met with officials of DEFRA, HM Treasury and the Ministry of Housing, Communities, and Local Government to discuss specific waste sector issues and we will continue working with other organisations and sharing our insights until the bill is complete.

Basel Convention changes expected to hit plastic exports

In June 2019, the UN announced proposed changes to the Basel Convention, an international treaty on the transboundary movement of hazardous waste which governs the export of plastic waste. According to recent analysis from the European Federation of Waste Management and Environmental Services (FEAD), these changes could massively harm the global trade of plastic for recycling.

The changes come at a time when the UK is expecting to collect and reprocess more plastic as the new Resources and Waste Strategy proposals are implemented.

The agreed changes will come into effect from 01 January 2021 and will add non-hazardous plastic waste that is not-recyclable or is ‘difficult to recycle to the Convention’s Annex II, a list of materials that require ‘special consideration.’ This will mean that more materials will require prior consent from exporting and importing countries, which could lead to delays of up to several months for some exports. There may be drastic drops in exports outside of the EU as a result of the amendment.

SUEZ will continue to work with FEAD to assess the implications for all of our businesses in Europe. In anticipation of these changes we have called for the Environment Agency to strengthen controls against illegal trade.

Exporters face wait over proposed Dutch RDF tax

Exporters of refuse derived fuel (RDF) will have to wait until autumn 2019 to learn if the Netherlands will introduce a tax on the import of waste for incineration, which could have a major knock-on effect on UK waste disposal costs.

Proposals for the tax first came to light in June 2019 and form part of the Dutch Government’s Climate Agreement which aims to reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Any tax is likely to add around €32 per tonne to the gate fees at the energy-from-waste plants in the Netherlands, many of which use RDF from the UK, and it could come into effect as early as January 2020.

Accepting over 1.3 million tonnes per year, the Netherlands is currently the largest SRF off-take market for UK materials and exporters have claimed that the proposed tax has the potential to wipe out the trade to Holland.

Opponents of the tax have already begun lobbying members of the Dutch Parliament in a bid to derail the waste import tax. This includes the Dutch Waste Management Association and Environmental Services Association (ESA), both of whom have written to MPs, while the National Association of Waste Disposal Officers (NAWDO) has put forward the concerns of UK local authorities.

SUEZ has gradually reduced RDF and SRF exports as our contractual relationship with CEMEX has developed. We now send 250,000 tonnes of Climafuel per annum to the CEMEX site in Rugby, next door to our own SRF production facility at Malpass Farm.

Sector responds to Committee on Climate Change

In May 2019, the Committee on Climate Change, an independent statutory body, released a report titled Net Zero – The UK’s contribution to stopping global warming, calling on a variety of sectors to take immediate action to address global climate change and move towards net zero emissions.

‘Net-zero emissions’ means balancing carbon emissions with carbon removal or simply eliminating carbon emissions altogether. For the waste industry this involves banning bio-degradable waste sent to landfill by 2025. The report also touched on the need for a switch to electric vehicles by 2030 and urged consumers to buy 20% less meat.

Sector-responds-to-Committee-on-Climate-Change

SUEZ welcomed the CCC report with David Palmer-Jones, CEO, said: “Bold changes are needed and industry, consumers and local authorities must work together across the whole value chain if we are to collectively tackle climate change and meet these ambitious new net-zero emissions targets.”

“There is no escaping the simple reality that to reduce carbon emissions we must move from a throw-away culture of consumption towards a culture of re-use and recycling. We in the UK have made giant strides in recycling, but we need another giant leap forward. Government has set out radical plans to usher in extended producer responsibility schemes for packaging and products – we cannot water down these aims if we are to preserve our finite reserves of natural capital for future generations and help meet the ambition of the Committee on Climate Change.”

Anaerobic Digestion was identified as having more potential for impact, with AD having already reduced the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions by 1% and with the potential to reduce them by as much as 5%.

SUEZ is working with our clients on addressing the current climate crisis locally, through innovation, changing practices and horizons scanning.

One year on – SUEZ contributes to the UK Plastics Pact

As we reported in previous issues of our quarterly Legislation Update, the UK Plastics Pact, a collaborative initiative set up to create a circular economy for plastics, was launched in April 2018. The pact brings together businesses from across the entire plastics value chain with UK Government departments and NGOs to tackle plastic waste.

SUEZ recycling and recovery UK was a founding signatory of this ambitious initiative which aims to transform the UK plastic packaging sector by meeting four targets by 2025.

The first Member Progress Report of the pact was released in May 2019 and included some great stories from leading brands about the interventions they have taken and opportunities identified – from Aldi stopping ending their sale of single-use plastic carrier bags, to Waitrose planning on 50% recycled polymer content in all own brand packaging. Boots is running a trial to understand the effectiveness of adding front of pack recycling messages on toiletries, Coca-Cola has introduced a “Please Recycle Me” message on over 500 million of its bottle tops, and Ribena is redesigning its PET bottles in a bid to aid recyclability.

In June 2019, Plastics Pact members agreed to remove eight problematic or unnecessary single-use plastics by the end of 2020 and identified a list of 19 other plastic packaging items to be prioritised for action by 2025.

The group defines a problematic or unnecessary plastics as one which:

  • is avoidable or has a re-usable alternative,
  • cannot be recycled or hampers the recycling process,
  • is commonly littered and pollutes the environment.

The eight items to be removed by the end of 2020 include: disposable plastic cutlery, all polystyrene packaging, cotton buds with plastic stems, plastic stirrers, oxo-degradables that break down creating microplastics, plastic straws, disposable plastic plates and bowls and PVC packaging.

Plastics Pact members agreed to remove eight problematic or unnecessary single-use plastics by the end of 2020

Key items to be prioritised for removal by 2025 include: plastic bags, plastic film packaging, multi-layer non-recyclable plastics (pouches), PVC cling film, bottle tops/caps, non-recyclable coloured plastics, fruit and veg punnets/trays, plastic coffee pods and teabags.

The Social Value in Government Procurement Consultation

In June 2019, the Cabinet Office concluded their consultation on  how to deliver the best social outcomes from government procurement exercises. Their proposed approach includes amending the current requirements of the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012 from “considering” the social impact of the services being procured to “accounting” for it. To support this approach the Cabinet Office developed a framework to define central government’s objectives in terms of social value and to encourage a consistent approach across government procurement exercises. It includes a set of key strategic objectives which are:

  • Diverse supply chains
  • Skills and employment
  • Inclusion, mental health and well-being
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Safe supply chains

Each objective is underpinned by a series of outcomes which a procuring public body would be able to apply to their procurement activities. In addition, that the proposal suggests that a minimum of 10% of the evaluation weighting for procurement decisions is applied to social value where this framework is applied.

The government’s response to the consultation exercise is due on 02 September 2019.

SUEZ has been responding to the social value agenda for over 12 months through our successful bids in Somerset and Greater Manchester and welcomes social value becoming more important in the tendering process.

UK Sustainable Clothing Action Programme (SCAP)

SUEZ continues to be an active signatory of the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan, a voluntary scheme to reduce the environmental impact of textiles, signing up to contribute to a number of challenging 2020 targets including:

  • 15% carbon footprint reduction,
  • 15% water footprint reduction,
  • 15% waste to landfill reduction,
  • 5% reduction in waste arising over the whole product life-cycle.

By June 2019, the signatories had made significant progress against these 2020 targets by reducing their water and carbon footprints by 17.7% and 11.9% respectively per tonne of clothing and reducing waste across the product life cycle by 1.1%.

We continue to contribute to the recycling and reuse working group and will share our insights with our clients in the remainder of 2019 and into 2020.

We have contributed to discussions about what will happen after the three-year SCAP programme ends in 2020 and we believe that a new programme should be developed with more signatories and partners to help continue the good work to date.

Government rules out landfill ban for textiles waste

In June 2019, the UK Government rejected a call to ban used textiles from landfill, pointing instead to the proposals for extended producer responsibility in the DEFRA Resources and Waste Strategy.

The government’s response was prompted by an Environmental Audit Committee report that was published earlier in the year and called for action to address so called ‘fast-fashion’ industry which disposes over a million tonnes of clothes every year. Recommendations ranged from a landfill and incineration ban for unsold stock to a 1p charge per garment so that producers have to help fund material collection. Ministers said they will continue to support WRAP’s voluntary Sustainable Clothing Action Plan (SCAP) and that they are looking at other areas like design and eco-labelling.

£4.7 million fund for plastics and textiles infrastructure

In June 2019, WRAP announced the launch of a £4.7 million capital grant scheme for infrastructure projects that support recycling of plastic packaging or textile waste.

Applicants are invited to apply for between £200,000 and £1 million in grant funding to projects aimed at processing difficult to recycle materials, including films, pouches and the PET from pots, tubs and trays. Grants funding is also available for projects aimed at processing packaging into food and pharmaceutical grade polymers.

Retail and hospitality sectors pledge to tackle food waste

Major players from the retail and hospitality sectors, along with social media influencers and chefs, joined forces to pledge action on food waste during the ‘Step up to the Plate’ symposium hosted by the government’s Food Surplus and Waste Champion, Ben Eliot. The campaign was launched in June 2019 and aims to reduce the 10 million tonnes of food and drink wasted in the UK every year.

Action on food waste during the ‘Step up to the Plate’ symposium

Environment Secretary Michael Gove and Waste and Resources Minister Thérèse Coffey were among the first to sign the pledge, which includes a goal to halve food waste by 2030.

Leading brands already involved include Nestlé, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, and Waitrose and government will be targeting 50 additional leading brands to get them involved early on.

As part of the Step up to the Plate campaign there will be a food waste awareness week in November 2019 called a ‘Food Waste Conversation’.

The UK Resources Council

In January 2019, the UK Resources Council was formed from a selection of organisations operating across the economic value chain, from design through to waste management and major users of secondary materials, in order to help the UK transition towards a more resource-efficient (green) economy.

The UK Resources Council is coordinated by the Environmental Services Association (ESA) and chaired by SUEZ’s Chief Executive Officer, David Palmer-Jones, with the goal of preparing a sector plan and a potential sector deal with the UK Government, targeted for early 2020.

This will help British industry make the most of the country’s waste material by ensuring that materials and resource management systems are designed with high value recovery and industrial users in mind.

The UK Resources Council has representatives from packaging and product designers, infrastructure investors and deliverers, technology innovators, researchers, academics, local economic partnerships and a number of the expected new and developing end markets for products that the sector could develop. To create the sector plan, the UK Resources Council created four technical working groups that each draw on a wealth of specific expertise from council members and sector experts, covering off issues relating to people, places, data, design and infrastructure. Each working group is being supported by Anthesis, an environmental consultancy, while the baseline positions and future opportunities are assessed.

The UK Resources Council consultation will be live throughout August and September 2019 and will share the groups initial thinking on priority opportunities for the resources and waste sector and seek feedback from stakeholders, both from within the existing sector and from sectors that might be considering secondary resources as key feedstocks for their own green agendas, namely the chemical, manufacturing, transportation and agricultural sectors.

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