Defra promised they will listen so it’s time to be heard

11th February 2019 Posted by

Posted by Dr Adam Read.

Dr Adam Read, External Affairs Director, SUEZ reccyling and recovery UKThe start to 2019 has been just as hectic as I suggested in my last blog, even though the Defra consultations have been delayed by a few weeks.

The last two weeks have been particularly full on, with lots of different opportunities to discuss the strategy and more importantly consider what we know, what we expect and what we hope to see in the first batch of consultations to hit our desks.

The current best intelligence expects these consultations to cover off the 30% recycled content tax from HM Treasury, plus EPR, DRS and consistent collections from Defra, and for them to go live before the end of the month – you have been warned.

I joined a Packaging Unwrapped master class last month where a few sector specialists helped to explain how the sector works, what the Defra strategy has laid out in terms of new directions and priorities, and discussed what we were expecting to see in terms of EPR system design and the drive for more on-shoring of packaging reprocessing

I think the brands (some big, some small) and their brand consultants were perhaps shocked by the sheer scale of change expected in terms of full (net) cost recovery, brand payments for putting packaging on the UK market, and the need to demonstrate that their materials have been recycled and put to secondary and tertiary usage.

Clearly, this is going to alter some of their designs, impact on their cost models and influence the way they are seen by increasingly savvy consumers.

This was therefore a great opportunity to discuss change, the transition period, and the need for these organisations to get fully up to speed on the strategy and the consultations so they could contribute effectively to the design of our new system.

I was also fortunate enough to speak at a CIWM event in Tiverton last week and although the consultations were firmly still locked away, the panel of experts (from WRAP, CIWM and Local Government) could help shed light on what we are expecting to see, and what we think the key issues will be in the consultations.

The big debate issues identified included how to ensure monies from the brands would reach those delivering collection services, what will consistency in collection really look like, and how to deliver weekly food waste and free garden waste services. As you know, so much is changing, and every facet of our sector will have to adapt to live through increasingly interesting times.

This week, we also have the CIWM, INCPEN, Resource Association, WRAP and ESA joint conference, with an array of industry and policy experts, offering up their own insights from the last 12 months of Defra thinking, modelling and mapping, and sharing their thoughts on the impending consultations to help raise awareness of the big issues and to encourage as many individuals and organisations to have their say.

Wider interests comes to the fore

I have also been privileged in being invited to provide a number of guest lectures, workshops and seminars at a variety of UK universities in recent weeks.

These have included a webinar for Northampton University (where I was visiting Professor some years ago), a series of filmed lectures for Aberystwyth University and a number of workshops at one of my former employers, and home to my PhD, Kingston University. What these sessions highlighted to me is just how interesting waste and resources has become in the last 12 months.

Students from diverse walks of life, and from very different courses are now fascinated by the risks and opportunities that are coming from the strategy – from materials scientists and civil engineers, to biological scientists, geographers, psychologists and economists.

I am always glad to get the call to come and run a guest session, and their level of engagement, the quality of the questions and the enthusiasm of the students is higher now than at any time in my academic lifetime. Good news I think, and no wonder I signed up to be a mentor.

Following some excellent debates about the rise of plastics as a successful packaging material, and our inability to manage it effectively once in the waste stream, we discussed a number of the current large uncertainties in our system from our reliance on UK export markets, to brands under-funding the collection and processing system.

Students from all walks of life were fascinated by how greater transparency of packaging content, ease to recycle and environmental impact could help deliver a step change in behaviours.

They were keen to explore what innovations in packaging design and ‘harvesting’ might happen in the coming years as the new policies kick-in.

Will we see an advent of post back schemes like Walkers crisps, or more drop off points at the HWRC? Only time will tell. But I was glad that the engineers, policy-makers and industrialises of tomorrow are fully engaged with the issues of today, this bodes well in my humble opinion for a new resources sector that is critical to greening the UK and powering our next wave of industrial development.

The future is bright, and is more circular, but we need to hear from you

Circular-economyEven with the current level of uncertainty surrounding our sector, from Brexit risks and global market concerns to a fundamental change in how our sector is shaped, structured and directed, there is a great deal of optimism, positivity and willingness to get involved and make a difference.

Although the next three months may be more chaotic than we would ever hop for, and the level and intensity of work greater than ever experienced, in particular for those of us with a day job to still deliver, the opportunities to get this right and to help the UK realign and move forward are too good to pass up.

So get on board, read the documents, get to the relevant workshops, and discuss in detail the issues with your peers, your supply chains and your competitors. Defra have promised they will listen, so let’s not disappoint them.

This blog was  originally published on on 11 February 2019.

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