Missing opportunities

3rd December 2013 Posted by

The waste-to-resource sector is one of the most active, rapidly growing and capital-intensive sectors in the UK at this time.

Our sector has a value in excess of £12 billion and directly employs well over 100,000 people. It reportedly grew at a rate of 3.1 per cent this year and is expected to grow by more than four per cent next year. It is also, arguably, one of the biggest construction employers in the UK at present. So you would think that Government would be actively involved in channeling, fostering and helping us to improve the country’s sustainability and achieve continued growth in our sector.

But unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be case anymore. Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) wrote to the industry in November to tell us that they were unable to maintain their current level of effort and were, in effect, withdrawing from many active areas of involvement in our sector, due to funding constraints. So what are the implications?

To start with, this could have a detrimental effect on England’s ability to pull its weight towards meeting the revised EU Waste Framework Directive (rWFD) targets. I’m certainly not the only one to notice this – for example, the recent Hertfordshire Waste Partnership report also recognised that UK target compliance now appears dependent on the efforts of the devolved administrations. In fact, Government’s own response to Europe on the Revised Waste Framework Directive targets implies a degree of uncertainty.

Having well defined targets to aim for is of great importance to the sector, because working towards them has driven much of the development and change that the industry has achieved and should seek to continue to capitalise on.

We understand that Defra’s resources are stretched, like many other Government departments and private companies, but it is important that the resources available are used in a clever and focused way to drive investment and secure the future. So what would I use any limited resource for if asked?

Firstly, I would use it for stricter compliance enforcement, so that less scrupulous operators (like the ones recently stung in Environment Agency raids) cannot make elicit profits at the expense of legitimate operators.

Secondly, I would adopt a resource policy that seeks to manage UK resources and balance both the energy and resource market drivers. Supporting the current economic recovery in a sustainable way is essential, as is targeted investment in key areas and balanced, clear and deliverable policy. Without policy and despite the sector’s best efforts, we will miss opportunities.

First published on Resource Efficient Business on 02 December 2013 –

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