#RTF18: Resources & Waste Strategy Needs “Whole System” Approach 

A “whole system” approach is needed in the Government’s forthcoming Resources & Waste Strategy if it is to have any impact, Shaun Gallagher, Director, Environmental Quality, Defra, said as he addressed delegates during the keynote session of day one of Resourcing the Future 2018. 

Mr Gallagher (picture inset) told delegates that the resource and waste agenda has rarely had a higher profile than it does today, in public perception, Government attention and business engagement, and that this presents an opportunity. 

He spoke about the Government’s forthcoming Resources & Waste Strategy (RWS), which is expected later this year (although no concrete date has been given), saying how a “whole system” approach is needed if it is to have any impact. 

He said the strategy will show Defra has pushed for engagement right across government and that this is needed because resources present a growth opportunity economically as well as being an environmental issue.  

He said the range of actions likely to be published will revolve around the whole lifecycle of products and will also look at specific waste streams in greater detail. A section on waste crime will also be included, building on Defra’s recent announcement that it intends to “beef up” action against organised waste crime. It was announced that CIWM’s CEO, Dr Colin Church, will sit on an advisory panel for its review on waste crime.  

Expected to feed into this “whole system” approach is a deposit return system (DRS) for England and a closer look at producer responsibility. A consultation to gain views on what a DRS might look like will also be published, he said.  

Again, Mr Gallagher said, referring to any DRS, said that no single intervention can stand alone and that they must connect to the “whole system”. 

Vitally, he said we can expect the strategy to stimulate demand for secondary materials market. 

In terms of how the EU’s Circular Economy Package (CEP) might influence this strategy, Mr Gallagher referred the Clean Air Strategy, saying this incorporates actions that go further than those set out in European obligations. He said a similar approach  will be adopted with the forthcoming RWS.  

Despite not being able to offer a definite date for the publication of the strategy, Mr Gallagher said Defra is keen to progress “with pace” and that they’re “not hanging around”. But he said it’s vital the strategy is comprehensive, including whole systems change which connect.  

Interestingly, Mr Gallagher appeared to rule out that the strategy would include plans for a pay as you throw (PAYT) system to increase recycling among householders, but said statutory targets for councils, among other measures, were being looked into. 

Made Smarter, Designed Smarter 

The following panel (main picture), titled: Future Resource and Waste Strategy – Made Smarter, Designed Smarter, included speakers from frozen food retailers, Iceland, AO Recycling, SUEZ, TechUK and Leeds University. The session was chaired by BusinessGreen editor-in-chief, James Murray.

Topics covered in this session included maximising resource productivity, maximising the value of resources through their lifetime and managing materials at end of life.  

Confirming the change in the attitude of the public towards recycling, AO Recycling’s Anthony Sant said it had seen a huge change the mindset of it’s customers. He also said Michael Gove, as well as the “Blue Planet effect”, has helped bring the issue to the forefront. 

Despite this, it was conceded that there’s a lot of work to do to make recycling easier for people, and that the attitude that it’s “someone else’s responsibility” isn’t changing fast enough. 

Interestingly, each of the panel members were asked if they could make one recommendation to Michael Gove for consideration in the forthcoming RWS, what would it be? 

SUEZ’s Stuart Hayward-Higham said to treat the industry as one value chain; Leeds University’s Professor John Barrett said to create partnerships across the industry; AO Recycling’s Anthony Sant said to look into the sector’s visibility and into a rating system; TechUK’s Susanne Baker said better data on waste and resources; and Iceland’s Richard Parker said to make recycling simple for householders to do the right thing.  

To consider new incentives and VAT reductions for repair activities and to encourage take-up of innovative digital technologies that can support repair, were also among the recommendations by Susanne, following the release of TechUK’s report today, Reuse, Repair, Remanufacture in the ICT Sector . 

She said the waste sector was behind other sectors when it comes to how digital technology can shape how things will be done in the future.  

At the end of the session a poll was put to delegates, asking them “what measure would most effectively ‘mainstream’ resource productivity and efficiency across UK industry, not just the big brands?”  

The majority said extended producer responsibility that rewards resource efficient design, followed by set legally binding targets for resource productivity. 

Delegates were also asked: “to what extend is consumer perception, expectation and behaviour a barrier?” The majority answered that it was “significant”. 


Resourcing the Future Conference 2018 comes at a critical time for the sector and provides an unprecedented opportunity to discuss and shape future policy. 

Against the backdrop of the Defra 25 year Environment Plan and the forthcoming Resources and Waste Strategy, RTF 2018 will provide the ideal forum for resource and waste management professionals, policy experts, academics and government representatives to debate and shape a new policy framework that supports the delivery of the “zero avoidable waste” vision. 

Throughout the conference highly interactive sessions will provide ample opportunity for debate, with day one’s practitioner-focused breakout workshops specifically focusing on areas of challenge or change. 

RTF is a partnership conference between CIWM, ESA, Resource Association and WRAP.  

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