There are more questions than answers in politics right now. However, Dr Colin Church, CIWM’s chief executive officer, says the important thing is that the resource & waste sector continues to highlight the contribution it can make both to a better environment and a stronger economy…
The last few weeks in politics have posed more questions than answers, and any certainty about future UK policy on important domestic issues – from farming to the NHS, and from waste and resources to social care – continues to be elusive.
However, as Michael Gove settles into Defra, Thérèse Coffey returns for a second stint as resources minister at the department, and Greg Clarke keeps his role as Secretary of State at BEIS, the important thing is that the resource and waste management sector continues to highlight the contribution it can make both to a better environment and a stronger economy.
As you would expect, CIWM has already written to relevant ministers to draw their attention once again to the critical role that resource productivity and efficiency can play in supporting the UK’s industrial strategy and in protecting our environment for future generations.
It has reinforced that ours is a dynamic and innovative sector that provides over 100,000 jobs and almost £7bn Gross Value Added to the economy. It has also reiterated the three immediate priorities for the UK Government identified in CIWM’s election “manifesto”:
- to ensure that current environmental standards are maintained and that the UK continues to show ambition on delivering clean growth and a better environment;
- to embed better resource productivity and efficiency as a key strand of government economic and environmental policy
- to provide a clear and stable future policy direction to 2030 and beyond, taking account of developments in our neighbours in Europe.
Delivering on these requires, dare I say it, joined-up government thinking. In the first instance, CIWM will continue to press for and engage with the quartet of policy frameworks that are tantalisingly in view, but not yet on the table: Defra’s 25-Year Environment Plan, BEIS’ Industrial Strategy, the Clean Growth Plan and the National Infrastructure Commission’s Infrastructure Assessment.
These are the vehicles through which the Government can provide a clear articulation of the future policy direction in England, given that the current regime is both EU-derived (and so subject to the uncertainties of Brexit) and limited in time (to 2020 in most cases).
Underpinning these plans and strategies must be the recognition that sound and sustainable economic growth is not just about labour productivity; the availability and efficient use of resources – raw materials, water, energy, land use – will also be critical to UK industrial competitiveness and resilience and needs to be a cross-cutting priority.
Growing competition for resources is already having an impact on UK businesses, with 29 percent of profit warnings issued by FTSE350 companies in 2011 attributed to rising resource prices.
“Greater resource efficiency and better use of secondary resources derived from waste can support local economic development and, according to some estimates, lead to tens of thousands of net new jobs”
More recent developments, such as increased price volatility in some commodity markets, reinforce and continue this concern. Recycled and recovered materials, especially when processed within the UK, can help provide a buffer to this. In addition, greater resource efficiency and better use of secondary resources derived from waste can support local economic development and, according to some estimates, lead to tens of thousands of net new jobs.
At the same time, the improper handling of materials at the end of their life is leading to growing pollution and health risks in the UK and globally. As an example, the average European shellfish eater now consumes up to 11,000 microparticles (and retains about one percent) of plastic each year because of marine pollution.
And raw material extraction and processing can require much more energy than recycling – for each tonne of aluminium recycled, nine tonnes of CO2 are saved, compared to virgin aluminium, yet in the UK we’ve only recently reached 70 percent recycling of aluminium cans and around 50 percent of all aluminium packaging.
CIWM will also be reinforcing the fact that not only is this sector shaped and driven by clear policy and robust and effective regulation, but also by robust enforcement.
With ESA’s latest research showing that waste crime costs the UK economy more than £600bn a year in lost tax revenue, undermines legitimate businesses and leads to fires, air and water pollution and ugly scenes in rural and urban areas, CIWM will continue to work with the industry’s trade body and other stakeholders to ensure that we have the necessary support from governments and regulators to tackle this growing problem.