Defra’s plans to reduce its funding and policy activities in the sector, raises concerns by the waste industry.
Earlier this week new resource manager Mr Rogerson, informed members of the sector that due to financial pressures the department will only focus on vital areas of work.
While sympathies regarding the government’s budget constraints were conveyed by respondents – CIWM, ESA and the Resource Association, they went on to express concerns regarding the cut backs and the impact they would have on the level of waste crime and councils’ progress on improving recycling rates.
Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM) director Steve Lee debated that it could “threaten the strong progress” achieved on recycling thus far.
“There are areas where government has to take a lead role, particularly in the interface with consumers. Local authorities are facing unprecedented budgetary pressures and while efficiency savings are essential, waste is a frontline service that doesn’t sit still. At the same time that improvements in recycling are starting to struggle, authorities are under pressure to take action on food waste, to respond to the requirements in the Waste Framework Directive to increase and improve the quality of recycling, and to play a role in waste prevention as outlined in the government’s recent consultation.
“Reducing the amount of government support available to help councils tackle these challenges threatens much of the strong progress made to date that the Minister is so keen to highlight in his letter.”
Director general for the waste sector trade body the Environmental Services Association (ESA), said:
“ESA Members well understand the resource constraints the government is under and Defra’s Waste and Resources Team can’t be exempt from those. But our members will be very concerned if cutbacks at Defra undermine efforts by the Environment Agency to tackle waste crime, which harms the environment and local communities as well as undermining legitimate businesses. Only if waste crime is kept to a minimum will ESA members be able to make the substantial investment needed to develop new facilities to recover and recycle waste properly.”
Mr Rogerson was praised by Ray Georgeson, chief executive of the Resource Association for his “directness and honesty” however stated that concerns are raised by the message.
“In the present economic and political climate there is an inevitability about this announcement and it is right for government to step back where the business case for action is made and markets are working to drive resource efficiency forward. However, tone and signals are important and so as a first major announcement from him it does generate concerns, as there is a real danger it sends a negative message to investors and the public alike that the government is disengaging.”
The minister’s efforts to reassure the industry were noted by Mr Georgeson, and it was also suggested that the MRF regulations would be a good starting point.