CIWM’s 10 policy recommendations for the UK government



Ahead of this summer’s general election, CIWM has set out ten policies it wants the next UK government to implement.

Six years after the publication of the Resources and Waste Strategy for England, CIWM has undertaken an extensive review to determine whether it is still relevant and to establish any potential policy gaps where it does not support current or future requirements.

The output of this process, which was undertaken by a working group of CIWM members, is a policy blueprint in the form of ten “policy asks”.

These policy asks have been designed to accelerate the transition to a more resource resilient and circular economy capable of meeting future material demands and supporting the battle against climate change.

The policy asks were developed by CIWM members to help move the UK to a resource resilient country, to facilitate a shift to a circular economy, and ultimately to mitigate climate change.

They are split into policies needed in the first two years of the next Parliament and policies to be delivered in years three to five.

Years One and Two


Policy 1: Implement the existing Resources & Waste Strategy policies   

As a matter of priority, the key policies contained in the Strategy but currently part way through implementation should be fully implemented. In particular, extended producer responsibility (EPR), consistent collections in England (now known as Simpler Recycling) and digital waste tracking.

We would welcome DRS for packaging being held in reserve until the impacts of the other reforms are determined. However, DRS or similar on batteries would be most welcome as this would help address one of the biggest risks in our sector right now: fires.

Policy 2: Create a cross-government resource resilience task force

The next government must take a serious cross cutting approach to resource resilience, net zero and climate change. By building a resource resilient UK, we can move more quickly to a circular economy, which in turn plays a huge role in climate mitigation. 

With responsibilities currently spread across multiple government departments, a task force is needed to bring urgency and focus to facilitate the joint working needed to take forward critical policies to bring about the circular economy.

This should bring together Defra, DESNZ, DHLUC, DSIT and DBT as a minimum. Keeping resources in economic use is at the heart of the circular economy and the resources and waste sector is the catalytic nucleus to doing that.

Policy 3: Launch a Green Skills Fund 

The next government should support CIWM and other professional and industry bodies in championing the green credentials of our sector and encourage people to seek a career in it. There should be a Green Skills Fund created to pump prime the transition to a greener and more circular sector that not only the resources and waste sector could access but also other heavy carbon and rapidly decarbonising sectors. 

There should be adoption of the recommendations of the Skills Commission’s Skills 2030 report, with a particular focus on using the full Apprenticeship Levy, diversifying its use across a broader range of training and qualifications, and increasing access to lifelong learning through high-quality funded provision that meets the needs of employers and provides wider societal benefits. 

Most importantly, the government must release the draft Green Jobs Delivery Plan and extend the tenure of the Green Jobs Delivery Group to help fashion a compelling cross sectoral campaign to attract investment into sector training, careers mapping and careers advisory education support.

Policy 4: Introduce targeted Extended Producer Responsibility for several key product types

With EPR for packaging underway, attention needs to be focussed on other products where end of life management can be challenging, and producers should be held accountable for the subsequent net costs of turning these products back into resources.

We propose Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE), batteries, textiles, and mattresses a good starting point. In each case, producers should face modulated fees which are lower for more circular products or services, and higher for more linear products and services, to drive product innovation and resource resilience.

Policy 5: Introduce targets across the top half of the waste hierarchy (prevention, reuse, repair)

Introduce new targets across the top half of the waste hierarchy, i.e., for prevention, re-use, and repair. These should start as UK government targets, but should subsequently be devolved down to business, the public sector, and households. They should start at an achievable level, but increase over time, to drive innovation and improvement.

Years Three to Five

Houses of Parliament

Policy 6: Develop a Circular Economy Plan with a supporting Resource Resilience Strategy

CIWM calls for a new Circular Economy Plan that replaces the current 25 Year Environment Plan. It would have a similar time horizon, with intermediate targets every 5 years, to ensure early progress (and to tie in with the UK’s approach to net zero). 

To support that, a new Resource Resilience Strategy would replace the current Resources and Waste Strategy and it would focus on delivering a circular economy and net zero, as well as addressing the gaps (e.g. eco-design, waste prevention, net zero) in the 2018 Strategy and incorporating the other policy asks CIWM has highlighted here. 

Policy 7: Price raw materials so that prices include negative environmental externalities

This policy would ultimately aim to reduce the use of resources, and particularly those that create the most damaging environmental impacts across a product’s lifetime. The recent introduction by the EU of a Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism could provide a useful starting point.

Policy 8: Introduce targeted economic instruments

Consideration should be given to introducing further economic instruments (similar to the introduction of the Plastic Packaging Tax in 2022) to drive focus and activity away from the bottom of the waste hierarchy and towards more sustainable circular activities and processes. 

For example, targeted subsidies should be introduced to encourage the creation or development of “circular” products, paid for by taxes on “linear” products.

CIWM would welcome the accurate inclusion of externalities in the costing of products and services (not just carbon) to drive new business models that are focused on refill, repair and reuse, as well as encouraging alternative consumption patterns like leasing and sharing.

Policy 9: Strengthen eco-design and waste prevention

Introduce stronger drivers for product eco-design and waste prevention, including a right to repair. The ideas underpinning the latest revisions to the EU Eco-design Directive could provide a template for this. CIWM would like to see the production of a new and much stronger Waste Prevention Programme for England by the end of 2025.

CIWM would encourage the devolved governments to do the same and would like them to be mandatory. They should contain key actions and targets for the relevant sectors of the UK economy and openly consider how we curb over consumption of resources.

Policy 10: Ensure adequate funding for Environment Agency and other regulators

Strong regulators are key, and drive standards and professionalism, but they are currently under funded and asked to enforce regulations that are out of step with current thinking. We are still regulating “waste” when we need to be facilitating the capture and use of “resources”. 

There needs to be an injection of funding and resources into the Environment Agency, and other regulators, alongside a wholesale change in how we determine the “end of waste” and stop we need to stop defining resources as waste.

CIWM is your voice in the sector, advocating for policies that matter and working to deliver meaningful change.

Learn more about the benefits of CIWM membership today and unlock your professional potential.

Send this to a friend