Newly inaugurated CIWM president Dr Anna Willetts has launched her 2022 Presidential Report, “Improving the way we regulate circular resources in the UK”, which focuses on how best to streamline and give confidence in the End of Waste process.
Commenting on the launch of the Report, CIWM President, Dr Anna Willetts, said: “If we are to keep the UK at the forefront of the circular economy, we need a regulatory environment that offers both clarity and consistency in relation to achieving End of Waste (EoW) status.
The report highlights that the proposals are high level at this stage and will require further work to fully test.
“Failing to deliver this will deter investment and hamper the brilliant innovation we see across the resources and waste management sector. I hope that, in addition to making several practical recommendations, my report will stimulate discussion and help accelerate our journey to a world beyond waste.”
The aim of the CIWM President’s Report is to investigate the understanding and application of EoW criteria in each UK nation and identify what improvements if any, could be made to accelerate the transition to a circular economy.
The report says we need to move beyond a linear ‘take, make and dispose of’ economy to a circular economy that minimises the loss of resources from the system.
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation defines the circular economy as based on three principles, driven by design: eliminate waste and pollution, circulate products and materials (at their highest value), and regenerate nature.
In 2020, UK nations transposed the requirements of the Circular Economy Package into their own legislation and this is reflected in nation-level strategy documents.
The key role that a circular economy has in reaching the 2050 UK target to reduce carbon emissions is recognised in the Net Zero Strategy: Build Back Greener.
The report says that EoW plays a vital role in the circular economy as it defines the point at which a material or component is no longer subject to waste regulation and can be sold, used, and regulated as any other raw material or product. To maximise the circular use of resources, the UK needs a clear and consistent framework for decisions, the report states.
At the conclusion of the report, it sets out the case for change. The report says that the project has found that the way we manage EoW issues currently is not achieving these outcomes in all cases and there is a significant case for considering an alternative approach.
It argues that a widely understood and easily regulated system for achieving EoW is vital to establishing a circular economy, and protecting the environment and human health.
The project combined stakeholder insights and the in-house experience of Anthesis’s team to propose 8 solutions that have the potential to improve the application and regulation of EoW in the UK.
Solution 1: Increased collaboration by regulators
Waste regulation is a devolved issue, however, there is the potential to explore a more consistent approach across the UK as a whole.
The report recommends that EoW teams from the regulators should re-establish regular meetings to share knowledge and seek to agree on consistent positions and joint guidance wherever possible.
Solution 2: Leverage existing controls to demonstrate EoW
The potential to move away from current practice and rely on these controls should be explored, the possible benefits include the release of the regulators from the role of ‘gatekeeper’ to focus only on illegal activities, reduced costs, and delay to businesses seeking to prove EoW and potentially a significant increase in recycling and landfill diversion.
Solution 3: Improving intelligence through tracking
In 2022, Defra consulted on the introduction of a Smart Waste Tracking Service for the UK.
Depending on how it is implemented, digital reporting of waste movements will allow regulators to identify the materials and loads being designated as having met EoW status and the sites and companies involved in real or almost real time.
Solution 4: Increase understanding of EoW
Additional understanding and awareness are required.
This should be targeted at the large proportion of the sector that is ignorant of the issues and acting contrary to the legislative requirements and be undertaken in partnership with efforts to simplify the requirements.
Solution 5: Priority materials & new technology
The report says new technologies and innovative products manufactured from waste, particularly plastics, have a significant role to play if we are to transition to a circular economy within the limitations of this decisive decade.
Solution 6: Gatekeeper
Improve guidance on EoW assessments and empower operators & markets to have confidence to make their decision.
Solution 7: Small changes to improve applications
Some businesses formally seeking opinions feel a lack of control and transparency. Small changes to the EoW service and engagement, such as having a named individual as the main contact and involving customers more closely in the decision-making process, have the potential to improve customer satisfaction.
Solution 8: Assessing environmental risk
Some stakeholders believe that the current approach to assessing the risk of using waste derived products is flawed.
The report says that whilst recognising that the projection of the environment and human health is vital, no activity or product is created without a degree of pollution and building in these considerations will allow for a more holistic assessment of the risks and benefits of waste derived products.