The 10 biggest waste management news stories of 2023


From Simpler Recycling replacing Consistent Collections to the collapse of Scotland’s DRS and Defra’s EPR delay, 2023 has been a huge year in the resources and waste industry.

Circular Online has broken down the biggest news stories in resources and waste from 2023. Below we cover the ten biggest waste management news stories this year, along with insights from industry experts who explain how they had a real impact on the sector.

1. Simpler Recycling replaces Consistent Collections


September was a rollercoaster month for policy in the UK. Many professionals in the waste industry were scrambling when Rishi Sunak scrapped “burdensome” proposals he said would “force” British people to have seven different bins in their homes. The press conference was even more surprising as the policies being cancelled had never been announced.

Shortly after Sunak stepped away from the podium in the media room at Number 10, Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) announced it was replacing Consistent Collections with a new policy: Simpler Recycling.

The UK Government later confirmed all local authorities in England will have to collect the same recyclable waste streams for recycling or composting from households as part of the policy. These collections must start by 31 March 2026, except for plastic films which will need to begin by 31 March 2027.

CIWM’s policy and technical team have previously unpacked the Simpler Recycling waste reforms for CIWM Members.

Insight: CIWM President, Dan Cooke 

CIWM President Dan Cooke“The confirmation, finally, from UK Government of the introduction of ‘Simpler Recycling’ reforms, alongside progress on digital waste tracking and Carriers, Brokers and Dealers Regulations, were welcome, if somewhat long overdue.

“The bigger picture however presents both challenge and opportunity for the next UK Government. The challenge has been clearly laid out in the recent reports from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC).

“Both reports clearly state the need for an integrated and cohesive approach to the implementation of the combined Collection and Packaging Reforms and in response to the forthcoming inclusion of Energy from Waste (EfW) in the Emission Trading Scheme, in order to incentivise investment in improved recycling infrastructure and services and deliver on the economic and environmental (carbon reduction) benefits of better waste and resource management.

The opportunity is for the next Government to align and implement these reforms into a potentially world-leading policy and regulatory approach.

“In reality, we have seen prevarication and a largely uncoordinated approach, which has not enabled local authorities, waste producers or the private sector service providers to plan, procure or invest in these vital services and facilities, or to move things forward.

“Businesses, the public sector and households across the UK want to see high recycling levels and the jobs and investment opportunities this brings. The opportunity is for the next Government to align and implement these reforms into a potentially world-leading policy and regulatory approach.

“The CPR and associated elements were mostly laid out in the UK’s Waste Strategies. If delivered with vision and alignment in a timely manner, they would enable our sector to play its part in moving towards a decarbonised and more circular economy.”

2. Scottish DRS collapses


The story of Scotland’s deposit return scheme (DRS) in 2023 took many twists and turns but ultimately ended with the policy being delayed until October 2025 at the earliest. This caused the scheme’s administrator Circularity Scotland to collapse with debts and liabilities of over £86 million, putting 60 jobs at risk.

Documents from companies house show the firm collapsed with debts totalling £86,186,796 with total assets available for preferential creditors estimated to be £2,111,836. The largest creditor listed was Biffa, the logistics partner for Scotland’s delayed DRS, with a liability of £65 million.

In the aftermath of the scheme’s collapse, there was a lot of finger-pointing. Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf blamed UK ministers for rejecting his request for the UK government to reverse its decision that Scotland must exclude glass from its DRS.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, Yousaf said removing glass from the scheme had put the future of DRS in “grave danger” in Scotland and the rest of the UK. While, during Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs), Rishi Sunak suggested the SNP “reconsider” its DRS policy to “do their bit” to help consumers.

The British Soft Drinks Association (BSDA) also confirmed to Circular Online it’s seeking compensation from the Scottish government following the delay to Scotland’s DRS. The trade association which represents many major soft drinks companies wants compensation for the money its members spent preparing for the scheme. The BSDA members include Coca-Cola, A.G. Barr which produces Irn-Bru, and Innocent Drinks.

3. Defra delays EPR until October 2025


In June, following an accidental announcement that was swiftly deleted, the UK Government confirmed the extended producer responsibility (EPR) scheme was being deferred for a year until October 2025.

Defra said the decision, taken jointly with the devolved administrations, follows “extensive engagement” with industry and will help “drive down inflation”. The Department said the new timeline is to help the UK government reduce inflation, which was 7.9% at the time, and gives businesses time to work with local governments on the scheme.

Insight: Neil Grundon, Chairman of Grundon Waste Management

GrundonNeil Grundon says he is less concerned about the delay and more worried about what EPR will be focusing on.

“If anything, I hope this will give more time for the waste industry to consult with EPR policymakers and encourage them to focus more on seeking solutions for hard-to-recycle items, rather than targeting packaging.

“Our industry already has very good systems in place for recycling and reprocessing packaging and there is a danger that in its current format, EPR could have a negative impact on those waste streams.

“I’d like to see a phased approach, with EPR initially concentrating on items such as mattresses, carpets and batteries and in time, encompassing products such as garden hoses, some building products, white goods and office furniture.

“Many of these items currently go to landfill or EfW because there is no viable alternative. Bringing these under EPR legislation would encourage designers and manufacturers to think more about designing for end-of-life and choice of materials.

“With regard to consumables and household waste, I tend to lean more towards carbon taxes as, sometimes, recycling isn’t always the answer.”

4. Defra announces new “waste reduction” policy programme

Circular Economy

In July, the same week EPR was delayed, Waste and Resources Minister Rebecca Pow announced plans to encourage the use of fewer resources and increase repair, reuse and recycling as part of its “goal” to achieve a circular economy approach.

The Maximising Resources, Minimising Waste programme focuses on seven “key” sectors: construction, textiles, furniture, electronics, food, road vehicles and plastics/packaging. Defra said it aims to drive change in product design so that products are made to be durable, repairable and recyclable – and can be remanufactured where appropriate.

The UK Government said its goal is for a “circular economy approach” which retains products and materials in circulation for as long as possible and at their highest value.

Insight: Claire Shrewsbury, Director of Insights and Innovation WRAP

“WRAP welcomed the publication of Maximising Resources, Minimising Waste in August.

“This programme pulls together some key themes and sectors that need to be addressed in order to drive out waste. It is good to see that under the Environment Act 2021 there are powers to implement mandatory eco-design, EPR on a range of products, and that environmental information should be provided to citizens on products.

This programme pulls together some key themes and sectors that need to be addressed in order to drive out waste.

“It was also encouraging to see the introduction of a target to halve residual waste per person by 2042. We do know though that we can’t simply increase recycling to deliver this, so increased reuse and repair and alternative business models are going to be needed to ensure the target. In essence, we need to accelerate the adoption of the circular economy.

“And not only will this help to deliver less waste, but it can deliver on job creation, estimated at around 550,000 and boost growth by £82 billion – both by 2030.”

5. Civil servant says Defra wasn’t set up to deliver waste reforms

Speaking to the Public Accounts Committee in September, Defra permanent secretary Tamara Finkelstein told MPs the Department wasn’t set up to successfully deliver reforms set out in the Resources and Waste Strategy 2018.

Finkelstein – alongside director general, portfolio delivery Sarah Homer and director, resources and waste, Emma Bourne – was being questioned on the delays to EPR, consistent collections, and DRS.

The committee’s chair Dame Meg Hillier asked Finkelstein if the reason for delays was down to the department having a lack of proper planning in place.

“I would definitely say we were not set up for as much success as I would have liked to have been. There were things we would have done differently. We’ve made some changes to how we’re managing this programme and more broadly to ensure we have the capability and capacity to deliver,” Finkelstein said.

Insight: Lee Marshall, Policy and External Affairs Director

Lee Marshall“The delays in implementing the reforms contained in the Resources and Waste Strategy have largely laid with the politicians and a lack of decision-making on key policies.

“Defra has significantly increased its capacity in 2023 and you can tell officials have been working hard on moving EPR, and consistency/simpler recycling forward. Is it as quick as the sector wants and needs, no, but we hope with the extra capacity and the announcements on Simpler Recycling we now get a period of sustained and meaningful progress towards implementation.

“However, the issues surrounding DRS implementation leave the sector still lacking a little bit of confidence in timetables and commitments made on these reforms, which is a shame.”

6. Plastic Packaging Tax and Aggregates Levy rise in Autumn Statement

Jeremy Hunt Spring Budget

In the Autumn Statement, Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt said the UK Government will raise the Plastic Packaging Tax (PPT) and the Aggregates Levy Rate.

The PPT rate is set to rise in line with CPI (Consumer Price Indices) to £217.85 per tonne from 1 April 2024; while Hunt told MPs the Government will increase the Aggregates Levy rate in line with RPI (Retail Price Index) to £2.08 per tonne from 1 April 2025.

PPT receipts collected by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) in the financial year 2022 to 2023 totalled £276 million, £41 million over its target.

The UK Government also announced it is launching a £78 million pilot fund aimed at alleviating the cost of landfill tax which is “acting as a barrier to the remediation and redevelopment of contaminated land”.

As part of the Autumn Statement, the Treasury also published an analysis that shows the DRS and EPR will save the public purse £20 million a year by 2028/29, with the “main uncertainties” in the costing relating to the size of the behavioural response.

7. UK generated 2nd largest amount of e-waste as a country in 2022


A study by Uswitch, which analysed data from the Global E-waste Monitor 2020, revealed that the UK generates the second-highest amount of e-waste per capita in the world at 23.9 kg.

Norway is the country that produces the most e-waste at 26 kg per person. While Switzerland is 3rd on the list, producing 23.4kg per capita of e-waste. Both Norway and Switzerland also have a “take-back” system to encourage companies to tackle the issue, Uswitch said.

Uswitch said that recent research suggested that by 2024, the UK will overtake Norway to become the world’s biggest contributor to e-waste.

Insight: James Rigg, CEO of Trojan Electronics,

Rigg previously told us that Apple won’t allow parts of its products to be exchanged and restricts access to repair parts.

“It’s worrying but not unsurprising to learn that the UK is one of the largest producers of e-waste per person. In recent years we have unconsciously adopted a fast fashion-type attitude to consumer electronics as consumers demand the latest tech with little regard for their old gadgets.

“This approach needs to be banished and more consideration given to how we can extend the useful life of electrical items. In addition, there must be initiatives and even laws in place to maximise the reuse of finite materials they contain, once they are no longer fit for their original purpose.

“As we go into 2024, retailers and manufacturers must work together to prevent the country from becoming the e-waste capital of the world, something the Uswitch report predicted. Our research found that 71% of people consider the impact of their electronic goods’ purchases, deliveries and returns, highlighting that the desire for improvement from consumers is already there.

“Currently for many retailers and manufacturers circular practices are less commercially viable than creating entirely new products from virgin materials. Without making refurbishing and recycling electronics a profitable practice for manufacturers there will be no improvement on the current status quo. It’s time sustainability was put at least on a par with profits.”

8. EU to ban exports of plastic waste to non-OECD countries

In November, the European Commission and European Council agreed to ban exports of plastic waste to non-OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries.

The Commission said it welcomed the political agreement reached on waste shipments, which will prohibit the export of plastic waste from the EU to non-OECD countries. After five years, non-OECD countries can receive plastic waste exports if “strict environmental conditions” are met.

Under the new rules, other waste suitable for recycling can only be exported from the EU to non-OECD countries when they ensure that they can deal with it sustainably. The regulations are part of EU legislators’ aim to prevent environmental degradation and pollution in third countries caused by plastic waste generated in the EU, the Commission said.

Insight: Theresa Mörsen, Waste & Resources Policy Officer at Zero Waste Europe

“The ban on plastic exports to non-OECD countries is a really important step towards environmental justice. However, the ban does not go far enough when we look at the situation in some OECD countries: for example, we have ample evidence of severe environmental and human health impacts caused by European plastic waste in Turkey – an OECD country.

“This was extensively documented by Human Rights Watch. The new provision that EU companies have to ensure that exported waste to OECD is only received by facilities subject to independent audits labelling them as “environmentally sound” is great but we have to make sure this is implemented on the ground.

The EU has to come to terms with its own waste problem and stop offshoring it to other jurisdictions.

“Ultimately, the EU has to come to terms with its own waste problem and stop offshoring it to other jurisdictions. Therefore, we need strong prevention policies, for example for packaging, as well as more reuse and better recycling in Europe. How is it even possible that everyday non-recyclable plastic packaging is placed on the EU market?”

9. Defra publishes local authority fly-tipping enforcement league tables

In August, Defra published league tables ranking local authorities in England on fly-tipping enforcement. The league tables were based on data from the 2021/22 financial year and show which local authorities issued the most fixed penalty notices (FPNs) and the ratio between incidents reported and FPNS issued.

Defra cautioned that the enforcement data shouldn’t be used in isolation as a measurement of performance and said comparisons between local authorities should be made with care as the data can be influenced by population density, housing stock, demographics and commuter routes.

The table below shows the ten local authorities with the highest FPN-to-incident ratios in 2021/22:

Rank of FPNs per incident (1)

Local Authority


FPNs per incident (2)(3)

Total FPNs

Total Enforcement Actions

Total Incidents
















Brighton and Hove

South East













North Somerset

South West






Waltham Forest








East Midlands


























There were 507,000 enforcement actions carried out in England – multiple actions can be carried out on one incident. Enforcement actions could include investigations, warning letters, statutory notices, FPNs, duty of care inspections, stop and search, vehicles seized, formal cautions, prosecutions and injunctions.

Eight local authorities did not report any enforcement actions through WasteDataFlow in 2021/22: Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Unitary Authority, Colchester, East Devon, Exeter, Isles of Scilly, Somerset West and Taunton, Uttlesford, and Wychavon.

Insight: Cathy Cook, LARAC Chair

fly-tipping“LARAC believes that the government’s league table of local authorities (LAs) with the highest levels of fly-tipping is a ‘name and shame’ exercise that does not address the underlying causes of this problem.

“Many LAs struggle to cover the costs of dumped waste and enforcing fly-tipping or do not have the resources to do so. This is partly due to the significant increase in fly-tipping, as although the stats show a reduction of 4% in the fly-tipping levels, it is still 14% higher compared to pre-pandemic figures (2018/19).

“The league table also exposes the weaknesses of LAs, which can make them targets for professional fly-tippers. LARAC proposes that instead of publishing the league table, the government should support LAs with the resources they need to tackle fly-tipping. This includes providing funding for enforcement, education, and prevention measures.”

10. Plastic treaty negotiations end with warnings from environmental campaigners

Prevented Ocean Plastic

The third session of UN Global Plastic Treaty negotiations in Nairobi, Kenya ended in November with more than 500 proposals from governments, participants said.

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said Members discussed the Chair’s Zero Draft throughout INC-3. The Zero draft text of the international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment, was published in September by the UNEP and included reduction, reuse, refill and repair targets.

According to a report in Reuters, petrochemical and oil exporters, including Russia and Saudi Arabia, and the plastics industry have called for a global deal that promotes recycling and reusing plastic. However, environmental campaigners and some governments have urged for less production to be the priority.

The third session followed INC-1 in Punta del Este, Uruguay, in November 2022 and INC-2 in Paris, France, over May and June 2023, and ended with an agreement on a starting point for negotiations at the fourth session (INC-4).

Insight: Steve Hynd, City to Sea’s Policy Manager

Plastic pollution“We’re edging closer to securing a Global Plastics Treaty – perhaps humanity’s best chance to tackle the plastic crisis. But as we edge closer, the time we have left to negotiate a treaty is slipping away.

“This time needs to be spent ironing out differences between member states about important issues like how we secure a reduction in plastic, how we put in place reuse targets, and, crucially, how we ensure that we deliver just a fair transition.

“But instead, we’re being forced to battle the vested interests of the petrochemicals industry that are flooding each negotiation with an increasing number of lobbyists. The latest round saw more petrochemical lobbyists than the combined delegations of over 70 countries.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but we should understand that the potential for transformative action only heightens the threat to those with vested interests in the status quo. 2024 will be the make-or-break year for this Treaty.”

On Plastics overshoot day:

28 July was announced as “Global Plastic Overshoot Day”, the date when the amount of plastic produced worldwide surpasses all combined international efforts to manage it effectively.

Hynd continued: “The proof is in the plastic pudding. How much plastic are we producing, and do we have the capacity to deal with it at its end of life? Plastic Overshoot Day is an annual reminder that at the moment we’re wildly out.

Even developed economies rely on exporting waste.

“Worse still every year we are producing more and more single-use plastic flooding markets that we know don’t have the capacity to process it. Even developed economies rely on exporting waste.

“This should be the wake-up call we need to focus on reduction measures and a wholesale shift from single-use to reuse. It’s abundantly clear we can’t recycle our way out of a crisis of this scale and magnitude.”

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