Lee Marshall on the Resources and Wastes Strategy



Lee Marshall, Director of Innovation and Technical Services at CIWM, speaks to Circular Online about the parts of the resources and waste strategy he thinks should be implemented.

1. Whichever party wins, should they implement the resource and waste strategy in its current form?

I think the answer is yes and no! There are definitely parts of the strategy that should be implemented given how little has so far. 

So simpler recycling and extended producer responsibility for packaging (pEPR) should be carried through to full implementation, as should reforms to carriers, brokers, and dealers along with the implementation of digital waste tracking.

Although it has only just been consulted on, the next development of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) producer responsibility should also be implemented. 

CIWM have a working group carrying out a review of the current strategy to see what we should push on with. Alongside the review, the working group have considered what should be added to the strategy if it were being written today. 

It has been an interesting exercise and we hope to publish the results soon. Without giving too much away, in 2024, there are arguably two high-priority objectives for action in our area:

  1. Delivering a circular economy.
  2. Ensuring our sector plays a full part in helping the UK achieve net zero.

We are looking at 10 potential policies that would help to deliver these two objectives. A pure Resources and Waste Strategy is no longer relevant or adequate in 2024, we have to go beyond recycling, so we can get to a world beyond waste.

I am excited to see how this piece of work will be received and hopefully, it will start a lot of discussions and inspire thoughts about the next evolution of our sector and the policies that will impact and guide it.

2. If you could only pick one policy, what would you like to see the next government implement?

Lee Marshall, Director of Innovation and Technical Services at CIWM.

One policy is so difficult to select as it normally takes a variety of policies to really affect change, but I would want to see the government legislate around design for end-of-use. I want to see legislation that means producers cannot put a product on the market if it can’t be easily repaired, reused or recycled.

I think that would facilitate a big step towards circular economy business models. The recent issues around single-use vapes show the problems poor design creates when a product reaches the end of its main intended purpose.

I am sure it would prove unpopular with producers and manufacturers but we need to kick start the green transition and really move the dial on the circular economy. In theory, good policy can alter and influence markets to achieve desired outcomes and this could be one way of doing that.

3. How can consumption, resources and waste get higher up the political agenda?

Within the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM), we are starting to look at and talk about resource resilience, in a way that is our version of energy security and is a logical extension of it.

World events showed how insecure the UK was when it came to energy. We should now look at how dependent we are on resources from elsewhere in the world and see what we can do to minimise that need, just having those thoughts and discussions is likely to get consumption and resources higher up the agenda.

Maybe then we would get a meaningful waste prevention plan or even better a resources strategy. Talking about the circular economy and taking the next steps from recycling to repair and reuse should help lift these issues higher on the political agenda.

The trick will be to speak in the sort of language that lands with the policymakers, and I think talking about resource resilience might be a way of doing that.

4. A recent survey shows 68% of the public support interventions to reduce single-use plastic packaging compared to only 49% of MPs. What do you think is the reason for this disconnect between the opinions of the public and MPs?

That is a really interesting question and not one that is easy to fully explain. Sometimes the public can overstate their intentions when it comes to environmental actions – we know what we should say, but our actions don’t always match our words. 

So maybe the MPs are just more honest, which I know is not something most people say nowadays! MPs are normally attuned to public views on things like this but it is a little surprising the score for MPs is lower.

That said, a bigger issue is the constant focus on single-use plastics. It has taken us down a bit of a rabbit hole and it’s probably time we took a step back and looked at all types of packaging and products. 

There are other single-use items and products on the market that are doing more damage than some of the plastics that are given more attention.

5. What policies will help the UK transition to a circular economy?

I think the policy I mentioned earlier about design for end-of-life would be a big help. But maybe we need to focus more on the “economy” part and then the “circular” aspect will follow. So policies that encourage and promote circular businesses and business models are needed.

If the economics of a circular economy are proven, then it will quickly gain traction and we will realise all the environmental benefits associated with circularity. However, we shouldn’t underestimate the massive change in businesses and business thinking that will needed. 

Organisations that currently manufacture stuff will need to change, in part at least, to provide services for the stuff they make. That is a change in mindset and a new set of skills. There also needs to be a change in mindset for the consumer and it is much harder to bring forward policies to do that.

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