Waste and resources sector retains high risk Brexit status

The waste and resource sector has retained its ‘high risk’ status in a Brexit risk tracker, despite the launch of the 25-year plan for the environment.

Greener UK, a coalition of NGOs, is monitoring the environmental impacts of the UK leaving the EU. Launched in June last year, the risk tracker is issued quarterly and highlights the policy areas that are more secure, and which are most at risk. Traffic light ratings have been given to each significant policy area, to indicate low (green), medium (amber) or high risk (red).

The waste and resource sector moved from medium risk to high risk last October, which Greener UK attributed to a lack of clarity on when the waste and resources strategy will be published, how far it will diverge from European practices, and whether or not the UK will adopt the measures in the European Circular Economy Package (CEP).

Despite an increased interest in resource and waste matters from the UK Government in recent months, including a consultation into a deposit return scheme, and the launch of the long-awaited 25-year environmental plan, the sector has retained its ‘high risk’ status as a result of funding and capacity concerns.

The National Audit Office reported in December that Brexit creates substantial additional workload for The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra), which the department must perform with shrinking resources.

In its commentary alongside the tracker, Greener UK says it is “concerned that, despite recent positive announcements, Defra lacks the capacity to deliver on the ambitions, especially as a key delivery body in this area, the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), will be losing a tenth of its staff due to budget cuts.”

Plan for the environment

The 25-year plan for the environment, launched this month, included promises to increase resource efficiency and reduce pollution and waste, with a pledge to meet “all existing waste targets – including those on landfill, reuse and recycling – and developing ambitious new future targets and milestones”, as well as a new target to eliminate “avoidable plastic waste by the end of 2042.”

Criticism has been raised, however, that beyond extending the 5p carrier bag charge, there are no concrete policies set out to achieve these aims and no clear indication of the timeline for a resources and waste strategy that will set out the next steps.

Defra has already indicated that it does not expect England to meet the Circular Economy Package 2030 recycling target of between 60 and 70 per cent, and that the targets are too high to be achievable, and Greener UK says it is concerned that the country will diverge from European policy and standards.

Greener UK’s Risk Tracker will continue to monitor the risks to the environment by checking the status of relevant policies during the Brexit process. 

Keeping you informed

We will continue to keep all of our WEEE compliance and packaging compliance members, clients and partners informed of changes as the EU exit negotiations progress. If you are a WEEE or packaging compliance member and have any questions about the impact of the UK's departure from the EU, please get in touch with a member of our team on 0845 129 7177.

You can see the full Greener UK report here.

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