‘Resourcing the Future’ conference held to debate the EU referendum and how leaving could affect the industry
Debate was raging at the final meeting for the ‘Resourcing the Future’ conference held in London last week, as waste bosses discussed Britain’s future in the European Union in relation to the waste industry.
Arguing to remain in the EU, Suez UK chief executive and president of the European Federation of Waste Management and Environmental Services, David Palmer-Jones asked the conference attendees: “What has the EU ever done for us?”
He then mentioned a number of waste improvements, including Britain’s 44 per cent recycling rate and the creation of landfill tax revenue, which have apparently been achieved solely because of Britain’s EU membership.
Mr Palmer-Jones finished off his argument by answering his initial question: “In terms of what the EU has done for us, it’s absolutely everything.”
However, on behalf of the leave argument, Neil Grundon, deputy chairman at Grundon Waste Management, took to the stage to claim that the UK was a leading nation in environmental matters.
He said: “I really don’t think that we are going to be any less of a force in our environmental conscience and our environmental pressure on the world as an independent nation.”
Mr Grundon used Britain’s excellent health and safety in the workplace record as an example of how Britain does not need the EU to be a world leader.
Angus Evers, from the UK Environmental Law Association (UKELA), had his time to discuss legal procedures for the waste industry following a remain or leave vote, saying that a remain would be “business as usual”, but a leave would involve “massive uncertainty” which could affect investment.
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Defra’s statistics show a 0.7 per cent drop in England’s recycling rate in 2015
Provisional data published by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) suggests that England’s recycling rate fell in 2015 for the first time in over 10 years.
The provisional data was released on March 22 and shows that recycling dropped by 0.7 per cent in 2015. This is the first year that recycling rates have fallen in England since 2000/01. In 2014, municipal waste recycling reached 45 per cent, but the rate for 2015 fell to 44.3 per cent.
The amount of waste produced by households in England increased by 0.6 per cent, but overall waste production in England fell by 0.6 per cent compared to 2014.
According to Defra the decrease in recycling can be attributed to a dramatic decrease in the recycling of ‘other organics recycling’ in 2014 compared to 2015; this recycling stream dropped by 5.7 per cent. Defra claims that this was because of dire weather conditions at the beginning of 2014 resulting in more garden recycling at the end of the year.
The overall 0.7 per cent decrease in recycling is the first dip recorded since 2000/01. In this year, England recycled only 11.4 per cent of the waste it generated; by 2010/11 this had risen to 41.5 per cent.
However, in the last four years, the country’s recycling rate has risen by tiny amounts, resulting in fears that England will not be able to meet EU’s 2020 recycling target, which has been set at 50 per cent.
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A new European Commission report advises four recycling bins per UK household
A European commission report outlines demands that would see UK households separating their recycling into four different bins for food, metal, glass and paper, which would have to be collected separately by council waste collectors.
At present, residents in the UK must separate their household waste into two or three council bins; one of which is a commingling recycling bin that contains a separate compartment for paper waste. Many people up and down the nation already feel that the current number of council bins per household present an eyesore and that the system is not successful.
The European commission report comes just a few weeks after a freedom of information report revealed that UK councils are sending more recycling waste to landfill than in previous years, which many people feel makes a mockery of the public’s recycling efforts.
Hot on the heels of this, was a report released last week by resource company, Viridor, which claims that England’s waste management system is “outdated” and a resource network between the private and public sectors would be more beneficial for the country’s economy and the recycling rate.
When asked about the new European Commission report, eurosceptic MP Philip Hollobone, of the Conservative party, told The Sun newspaper: “These sort of decisions need to be taken in this country … They don’t need to be imposed on us by unelected bureaucrats from other countries and we are going to get more such interference if we stay In the EU.”
However, the EU report was also met with approval from some government officials in the UK, including The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, as the report suggests that separating recycling waste prevents the contamination that occurs when it is commingled.
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