Defra Secretary to prioritise moving Britain to zero waste economy


Steve Reed

The new Environment Secretary Steve Reed has said moving Britain to a zero waste economy is one of his five core priorities.

The new Prime Minister Kier Starmer appointed Steve Reed as the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) over the weekend.

Following the appointment, Reed announced that moving Britain to a zero waste economy is one of his five core priorities alongside cleaning up rivers, lakes and seas, boosting food security, ensuring nature recovery, and protecting communities from flooding.

In a video released by Defra, Reed said: “It is a huge honour that the Prime Minister has appointed me Secretary of State for the Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs.

“This comes at a time when we are facing a crisis point. We have record levels of sewage in our rivers, lakes and seas; nature is dying; confidence amongst farmers is the lowest on record.

“It will take years to reverse the damage that’s been done. But the work of change has now begun. The challenges we face are significant, but together we will bring about the change we all want to see.”

The challenges we face are significant, but together we will bring about the change we all want to see.

Reed previously said Labour would target a zero-waste economy by 2050; however, this target was not included in the party’s manifesto.

In 2011, the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government published plans for a zero-waste economy; however, Reed said that since then little progress has been made.

According to the Guardian, Reed said he had seen analysis that shows transitioning to a zero waste economy would add a “£70 billion boost to the economy”.

In its manifesto, Labour said it is committed to reducing waste by moving to a circular economy.

zero waste economy
A zero waste economy seeks to minimise waste through reuse, repair, and recycling.

Michael Topham, CEO of Biffa, expressed optimism about the new government’s approach: “We’re pleased to welcome the new government and look forward to working with them to deliver the ambitious vision of a circular economy.

“A stable and clear policy environment with realistic timetables and as much consistency as possible across all devolved nations will be key to allowing the waste sector to invest and innovate.”

CIWM’s Director of Innovation and Technical Services, Lee Marshall, said: “CIWM welcomes the new government and looks forward to working with them as we continue our journey to a world beyond waste. We believe our ten policy asks will help support them in delivering on their manifesto promise to commit to a more circular economy.”

CIWM’s recommendations are split into those which should be prioritised in the first two years of the new government, and those which can be developed in the following three to five years of the term.

Years One and Two

Policy 1: Implement the existing Resources & Waste Strategy policies.

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

Policy 3: Launch a Green Skills Fund.

Policy 4: Introduce targeted Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for several key product types.

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

Years Three to Five

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

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

Policy 8: Introduce targeted economic instruments.

Policy 9: Strengthen eco-design and waste prevention.

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

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