I suspect that when we look back, we will conclude that 2019 was quite a significant year. The trouble is that in mid-January it is difficult to accurately predict just how significant and in which areas.
The English Government delivered the Christmas present that all in the resources sector were waiting for with the publication of its Waste Strategy on 18th December. The much trailed Strategy has a large number of proposed actions, perhaps the most interesting being to introduce a deposit return scheme (DRS) for single-use beverage containers by 2023; setting a core set of recyclable materials to be collected by all local authorities; introducing a mandatory separate collection of food waste across England by 2023; and a full net cost recovery extended producer responsibility (EPR) scheme for packaging. With such a range of options, it’s difficult to pick your favourite! Obviously, for Novelis any deposit return scheme is likely to impact on our current business model, so we’ll be watching very closely the promised dedicated consultation on this issue when it emerges. Nevertheless, for local authorities, I wonder how impactful it will turn out to be?
The remaining three items perhaps strike more directly at the heart of the existing public service provision of recycling and waste services. Telling you what materials to collect with food waste being mandated but potentially being funded in a large part by industry through EPR. All credit to LARAC at this point, who have consistently lobbied on behalf of local government that the existing producer responsibility arrangements do not fully recompense the public purse for the full net cost of packaging collection. Therefore, as above, I am sure local authorities and LARAC will be watching the promised dedicated EPR consultation very closely.
Having taken 18 months to publish the Waste Strategy, barely a further 18 hours had elapsed before Michael Gove, Secretary of State for the Environment appearing in front of the Environmental Audit Committee had already promised local authorities “hundreds of millions of pounds” to help you increase recycling rates. Personally, I have always been a little wary of anyone keen to spend someone else’s money – but maybe that’s just me.
So interesting and potentially significant times ahead. However, not without its uncertainty on for example harmonization where needed with the Devolved Governments or Parliamentary time to enact any of the primary legislation needed to make a reality from these plans. Never has the axiom of a week being a long time in politics, been truer. Therefore, whether we actually get a DRS deal or no deal, an EPR deal or no deal, is as likely to be wrapped up in the goings on in Parliament this week as it is in the further consultation documents that might ultimately emerge.
So maybe in late 2019 we’ll be able to look back and reflect on whether this marks the beginning of the end of the current local authority role in resource management of just the end of the beginning…….