Coffey cites circular economy among Defra’s current priorities

Thérèse Coffey

During an evidence session for the Environmental Audit Committee, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) Thérèse Coffey said she was “very keen” to progress the circular economy “in substance”.

The evidence session was convened in response to the government’s Environmental Improvement Plan (EIP) and the Office for Environmental Protection’s (OEP) assessment that government targets are not being met.

Speaking at the session on Wednesday 8 February, Coffey was asked by Independent MP Claudia Webb what her priorities currently were and replied she was “very keen to get the circular economy going again, really in substance”.

The Environment Secretary continued that the department is “close to resolving” consistent recycling and wants to make progress on EPR.

Coffey went on to say that she was conscious of industry concerns on aspects of the policy, so is currently going on a “deep dive” to understand concerns. The Secretary also offered that she’s thinking about what other materials could be brought into EPR, although she countered that packaging must be prioritised first.

Coffey was also quizzed on the possibility of expanding EPR to include textiles. The Secretary of State said that she cannot say right now that she’s going to include textiles into EPR in the “near future”. Coffey said that the focus must be on ensuring the policy is in place for packaging.

Both Webbe and the Committee’s Chair, Conservative MP, Philip Dunne said they were disappointed with Coffey’s response. Dunne said it would be “very disappointing” if Defra did not consult on including textiles in EPR.

CIWM looks forward to working with them and other government departments to ensure this critical transition happens.

Reacting to Coffey’s comments, Lee Marshall, Policy and External Affairs Director, CIWM, said: “CIWM is pleased to see that Thérèse Coffey has confirmed the circular economy amongst Defra’s priorities during the recent evidence session to the Environment Audit Committee.

“The circular economy is where our profession operates, and the resources and waste sector is at the very heart of it, ensuring that products people say they no longer need are recovered and delivered to those who can keep them in economic use.

“It would be good to hear more details on how Defra intend to help move the UK to circular economy principles, but CIWM looks forward to working with them and other government departments to ensure this critical transition happens.

“With the overwhelming impact a circular economy can have in combating climate change it needs to be at the heart of what all governments are doing, and that way we will move to a world beyond waste.”

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