Her Majesty the Queen has opened Parliament with the message that laws will “protect and improve the environment for future generations”.
“For the first time, environmental principles will be enshrined in law” to “protect and improve the environment for future generations”, the Queen said.
Measures set to be introduced include improving air and water quality, tackling plastic pollution and restoring habitats so plant and wildlife “can thrive”.
The Queen also made reference to the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP), calling it a new, world-leading regulator.
Plans under the Environment Bill to deal with plastic waste and pollution are to be commended, said David Palmer-Jones, CEO of SUEZ recycling and recovery UK, in a reaction to the Queen’s speech, “but these must come hand-in-hand with radical societal reform of our consumption and resource use.”
He said producer responsibility schemes, as envisaged by the government’s Resources and Waste Strategy, are an “essential tool” to ensure we move, as a nation, from a throw-away society to a reuse-and-recycle based economy that gives new lives to products we consume.
He said these must go “hand-in-hand” with efforts to minimise our overall consumption of the planet’s finite resources.
We look to the Environment Act to help give new momentum to the clear economic and environmental case for the greater production of secondary raw materials
“An ad hoc, piecemeal, approach to meeting society’s collective challenge to consume fewer virgin materials, and to recycle more, simply won’t deliver the systemic changes needed to deliver on the praiseworthy ambitions of the Environment Act,” David Palmer-Jones said.
“Greater producer and consumer responsibility plays a significant role in reducing our reliance on non-renewable resources. We look to the Environment Act to help give new momentum to the clear economic and environmental case for the greater production of secondary raw materials.
“The timetable for transitioning to a more sustainable UK economy needs now to be put back on track. As a nation we are part of a global community still far too reliant on finite global resources and we cannot afford to delay. The value chain of public, manufacturers, local authorities and recycling organisations are already investing and need to invest more to make this change happen but they need the right regulatory and investment conditions to be delivered by Government now, to be able to deliver change within the timescales envisaged for a new sustainable economy.
“Success depends on all parts of the value chain doing their part, from the need for 90% of the people doing 90% of the right things for recycling 90% of the time, to the design, collection and treatment system working efficiently and effectively.
“With this high participation we, as an society, can achieve the scale of ambition demanded by the environment and set out by government.”
Unlocking new investment [updated 13:45]
The Environmental Services Association’s (ESA) executive director, Jacob Hayler, reacted to the speech by saying that if implemented “correctly”, a new Environmental Bill could unlock billions in new investment in the UK by the environmental services sector.
He said this, in turn, will help Government deliver on its “ambitious plans” to reduce waste; preserve natural resources; tackle the scourge of litter polluting our natural environment; and tackle waste crime – among wider environmental goals related to air quality, nature and water preservation and CO2 reduction.
Under the resources and waste strategy, major new reforms are coming which will have a profound impact on producers and the way things are made
Hayler said: “Under the resources and waste strategy, major new reforms are coming which will have a profound impact on producers and the way things are made; how we collect materials when they are discarded; how we treat those materials and how waste services are funded.
“This will require major change and investment from the environmental services sector and the Environment Bill must provide the new legislative framework which will underpin this next phase of investment.
“ESA members have committed to investing ten billion in the UK over the next ten years, if given the right policy framework, which will create 50,000 jobs and deliver more than 40 million tonnes of CO2 savings.
“The bill, if designed properly, will also help to protect this new investment made by our sector, by levelling the playing field and providing Government with new powers to tackle waste crime, which not only harms the environment, but costs the UK economy £600 million a year; undermines the sector; and threatens investment by legitimate operators.”