Defra has responded to an Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Efra) Committee report published earlier this year, which laid out recommendations following news that Defra intends to scale back its work in the waste and resources sector in 2014.
From April 2014 Defra is reducing its activates in the waste and resource sector, which prompted a Efra to launch an enquiry to examine existing approaches to the recycling and treatment of municipal waste in England, and the impact of the reduction of Defra’s activities in municipal waste management.
In response, Defra has said that it is reducing activity in areas of waste policy where “business is better placed to act”.
It says it will focus its support through the Waste Infrastructure Delivery Programme, and that these changes will enable Defra to focus on its priorities, which it states as “ensuring the negotiation and implementation of proportionate EU waste agreements.”
Defra say this is likely to be a “priority” in 2014 as the European Commission is expected to bring forward proposals on waste and resource efficiency.
It also states that its current programmes of work on anaerobic digestion and food waste are nearing completion, and that the responsibility for taking work forward will “largely rest with the industries concerned”.
Plastic Bag Levy
The report also looked into government’s stance on implementing a plastic bag levy. The report recommends the early introduction of the charge.
Defra – “This is part of our challenge to UK industry to find innovative approaches to decrease the environmental impact of plastic bags and we have just awarded four contracts for feasibility studies”
In response, Defra says that the charge will not come into effect until 2015 because of the “time needed to prepare secondary legislation and work on details, such as exemptions, and the time needed for retailers to prepare for the change.”
Defra aslo says that it is encouraging the development of better biodegradable bags to provide consumers with options for those times when they do need a bag.
“This is part of our challenge to UK industry to find innovative approaches to decrease the environmental impact of plastic bags and we have just awarded four contracts for feasibility studies.”
Two studies will look into decreasing the environmental impact of plastics polymers and two studies are looking into economically viable methods for separating biodegradable bags from the waste stream. This work will run in parallel to the work on a charge and will not delay the introduction of the charge in 2015, according to Defra.
“We will legislate for the biodegradable bag exemption once a suitable bag is developed and standards are set.”
With regards to budget and staffing cuts at the Environment Agency, Defra says that due to the Budget 2014 providing an additional £5m for waste enforcement initiatives to tackle waste crime, and additional funding of £130m in 13/14 and 14/15 and a further £140m over 2014/15 and 2015/16, the “timetable and approach to the Environment Agency’s change programme and future staff numbers is under review.
The Environment Agency will consult with its staff and unions on its plans for the future once these are clearer, Defra says.
It says that following the additional funding, reductions in overall job numbers will be lower than previously thought and by October 2014 it is likely that job numbers will be approximately 10,250 an estimated reduction of around 350 on current staffing levels.
“We want to see the legitimate waste and resource industry flourish: that means taking a tough approach with those who deliberately flout the rules,” Defra states.
For Defra’s full response CLICK HERE