All Change!

peter-gerstromAs chairman of the ESA, Peter Gerstrom has been writing columns for the CIWM Journal for the past two years. But as he hands over the role to Stewart Davies in a few weeks time, we share Peter’s final article as ESA chairman in which he summarises the changes that have occurred within the resources industry during his time…

One of ESA’s top priorities in Peter’s time as chair… fighting waste crime

This month is my last column as ESA chairman, a role I have enjoyed immensely since taking over in November 2014. A quite extraordinary amount of change has occurred during this time, which I doubt anyone would have seen coming back then.

A majority Conservative Government was a surprise to most – including the pollsters – in May 2015. This election result came during a period of quite extreme stress in the recycling industry with high profile cases of paper and plastics capacity closing last year. ESA consistently raised these difficulties in discussions with the Government, which was sympathetic to recycling’s plight but stopped short of introducing the long-term framework which we believed could bring stability to our sector.

ESA’s other top priority in 2015 was waste crime. Our consistent lobbying on this issue was instrumental in persuading HM Treasury to provide £20m in additional funding to the Environment Agency to fight it. We were also a lead voice as Defra moved to introduce additional enforcement powers for the regulator.

The fight against waste crime is of course far from over and remains one of ESA’s key priorities. We are pleased with the additional focus from government in this area in recent years, but are concerned that by simply throwing more money at the same old structures and institutions there is a risk that we fail to tackle the underlying causes and culture, which allows crime to flourish in our sector. ESA has therefore commissioned Eunomia to take another look at what real interventions could be taken to stop criminals from entering the sector in the first place and then stopping those that do from getting their hands on the material which feeds their crimes.

2016 has seen ESA increase its engagement with government and push harder for a long-term strategy for our sector. As well as waste crime, we have also identified the fragmented nature of our supply chains as a key blocker holding back the industry’s ability to invest and move on to the next level. We have proposed to government that extended producer responsibility form the centrepiece of a new settlement for waste and recycling, with measures to support end markets for recyclates and realisation of economies of scale as complementary pillars, which will improve outcomes for all.

Minister Number 3…

0X3V5109The Minister, Rory Stewart OBE, had become keenly interested in our sector after a slow start but the 23 June referendum result caught the pollsters off guard once again and led to the reshuffle and the arrival of my third Defra Minister, Dr Thérèse Coffey.

I am pleased to say that the new Minister seems actively engaged and interested in the waste and recycling part of her brief from the start. ESA has already had a relatively early opportunity to share our thoughts on the current state of the industry with the Minister in a positive and wide-ranging discussion.

Brexit, of course, loomed large over the agenda and the Minister was understandably keen to understand from ESA how Brexit could represent an opportunity for the waste sector. She also recognised ESA’s concerns about waste crime and wanted to explore how we might get recycling performance back on an upward trajectory.

3030388_2000-Therese_CoffeyThe Minister felt that we might now need a new policy lever to boost recycling and implied that a reintroduction of the landfill tax escalator could be one option the Government would now explore. In ESA’s view, though, the answer is obvious: extended producer responsibility. This would shift short-term costs away from the public sector and in the longer term would put in place the incentives to drive better outcomes for everyone.

I am now looking forward to watching from the sidelines as Dr Stewart Davies takes over the reins as ESA chairman. I believe that firm foundations are in place at ESA and I am sure Stewart will do a fantastic job raising the industry’s profile even further.

CIWM Journal would like to place on record its thanks to Peter for his regular contributions during his time as ESA chairman – insightful, thought-provoking and challenging.… much appreciated.

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