'Too much confusion' around 25 Year Environment plan says recycling roundtable

Written by: Corienne Kilgannon | Published:
The roundtable held by B P Collins

Five months since Defra launched its 25 Year Environment Plan and leading players in the waste and recycling sectors and business community have pointed out a series of issues with the policy at a recent roundtable.

Chaired by the Environmental Industry Commission’s (EIC) Matthew Farrow, the discussion included senior executives from Biffa Waste Services, Green Redeem, Carbon Statement and environmental lawyers from B P Collins.

It pointed to the lack of detail that still remains, the absence of practical guidance from the government and how a joined up approach is urgently needed.

Many participants thought that although it was more of a campaign manifesto than a policy document, at least it "put environmental issues back into the limelight initially," according to Craig Williams, B P Collins.

Yet many are now questioning its likely impact on changing the public’s and businesses’ behaviours.

Bruno Prior, Forever Fuels, a renewable energy company said:

"With all of the UK’s economic problems, half of it should be scrapped and more flesh should be put on the bones of a smaller list of actions."

Sean Reel, investor and entrepreneur added:

"Setting out long term agendas are great, but we need urgent action now. Consideration should be given to how businesses react to and implement the plan, but most haven’t looked past the first page."

Execution of plan

Panellists agreed there was a general desire across the country to take practical measures that will have a more positive environmental impact. But there are too "many organisations, retailers and manufacturers focused on dealing with waste and recycling and each are doing their own thing," according to Matthew Ball, Green Redeem. "There is just too much confusion at the moment," added Simon Rutledge, Biffa Waste Services.

Many participants agreed that business leaders need more practical government guidance. However, it seemed that Defra was "throwing the plan out there and hoping the industry is going to sort it out for them," Ball added.

Matthew Farrow, EIC said:

“Part of the problem with the 25 year plan is that it covers everything so civil servants don’t quite know to put the resource.”

But the roundtable agreed that coordination is key, in order to address the many practical challenges around waste management, beyond the headline hitting ‘banning plastic straws,’ Carbon Statement’s Peter Charlesworth added.

Farrow, agreed, offering electric vehicles (EVs) as an example: "The increasing popularity of EVs show how often issues only move forward when the impetus from the government, business and the public all reinforce each other.

"Awareness about air pollution has gone from five years ago where it was a niche issue to one talked about all of the time and frequently comes up in PMQs, while papers like the London Evening Standard have been running air quality stories almost daily.

"Plus on the legal side you had the government losing on three separate court cases around EU regulations on air quality. And they were on the back foot. So the government started to drive the perception that electric cars are part of the answer, then car companies start to think about consumer demand for EVs, then everything came together."

Click here for further discussions from B P Collins’ roundtable on Defra’s 25 year plan; the waste and resource strategy coming out in the Autumn; Brexit’s impact on waste management and recycling and much more.

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