“Mixed Diet” Budget Receives Mixed Response

Areas of the resources and environment sectors have delivered a mixed response to what has been called a “mixed diet budget” regarding its environment and sustainability measures. 

Among environmental measures, the Chancellor announced in his 2018 Budget yesterday (29 Oct) £10m to tackle abandoned waste sites, a new tax on the manufacture and import of plastic packaging that contains less than 30% recycled plastic content, and the commitment to delivering reform of Packaging Producer Responsibility.

A mixed response to these announcements among the resources and environmental sectors vary from “delighted” to “it’s a good start” to “doesn’t live up to government’s clean growth ambitions”.

Plastic Packaging Tax

Chief policy advisor Martin Baxter for the alliance of environment and sustainability professionals, IEMA, labelled the Budget’s environment and sustainability measures “a mixed diet” when it was pitched as “paving the way for a brighter future”.

“On the face of it the proposed plastic packaging tax should encourage higher levels of recycled content into plastic packaging,” he said, “but we need to see how this fits into the broader resources and waste strategy and the longer-term goal of zero-avoidable plastic waste by 2042 as set out in the 25-year plan.”

He said Government’s earlier decision to not progress with the so called “latte levy” was a “missed opportunity”.

The Environmental Services Association’s (ESA) Executive Director, Jacob Hayler, said the ESA was pleased the Treasury recognised that a new tax on plastic packaging that contains less than 30% recycled contentis the “most effective way” to ensure the right incentives are in place for recycling, rather than to penalise energy from waste.

Jeff Rhodes, Biffa – “Taxes can be an effective tactic as seen previously with the plastic bag levy, but we need to go back to the source… Waste producers must bear greater financial responsibility for the design, collection and treatment of plastic products, rather than passing costs and problems along the supply chain.”

He said: “An incineration tax would only burden local authorities and industry without doing anything to support greater recycling, and we are glad that the Treasury recognises the importance of energy from waste in sustainable waste management.”

Jeff Rhodes, head of environment & external affairs for resources and waste management company Biffa, however, said while the plastic packaging tax was welcome, the chancellor “refused at this stage to go so far as introducing a tax on single-use plastics”.

“Taxes can be an effective tactic as seen previously with the plastic bag levy, but we need to go back to the source,” he said. “Waste producers must bear greater financial responsibility for the design, collection and treatment of plastic products, rather than passing costs and problems along the supply chain.

“We also need to reduce the reliance on export markets for secondary materials which has created complacency, low investment in UK infrastructure, and a lack of urgency on waste management at its source.”

Richard Kirkman, chief technology and innovation officer for Veolia UK & Ireland said the tax announcement has the “potential to ensure recycled content becomes the currency of production.”

Chief executive of the Resource Association, Ray Georgeson, said he was “delighted” to see that the Chancellor has “heard the arguments in favour of more action to drive the use of recycled materials in plastic packaging, but creating demand for recycled material is not just about the fiscal incentive, though”.

He said: “Action across the supply chain is needed to address issues of poor quality recyclate from many collection and sorting programmes, the lack of transparency on end destination of recycling which damages public confidence in the recycling process, and an integrated approach to recycling market development that addresses other barriers to the take up of recycled material in manufacturing.”

Clean Growth Ambitions

Nick Molho, executive director of the Aldersgate Group, said the Budget doesn’t live up to government’s “clean growth ambitions” and the Anaerobic Digestions and Biogas Association (ADBA)’s chief executive Charlotte Morton said ADBA were “disappointed” the Budget did not confirm a commitment to introducing universal food waste collections in England or any further funding support to encourage local authorities in this.

Molho said: “Despite some positive announcements on industrial energy efficiency and plastics, today’s budget – and the way in which it was presented – did little to match the commitment to clean growth the government showed during Green GB Week.

James Court, Renewable Energy Association – “Next to nothing in this budget will help build clean energy infrastructure we so desperately need, and in parts actively harms the industry. Carbon Prices frozen, tax allowances for energy products scrapped, and a continued block to market for the cheapest forms of electricity.”

“The creation of an industrial energy transformation fund is welcome and targets public funding at an essential part of the economy that needs support to cut its emissions, but it would be made even more effective if combined with measures to support a renewed roll-out of onshore renewable energy to lower power prices for industry.”

James Court, policy and external affairs director at the Renewable Energy Association said there is “huge support” for renewables across the country, parliament, and even within government, yet the Treasury continues to “stymie” the potential growth in this sector.

He said: “Next to nothing in this budget will help build clean energy infrastructure we so desperately need, and in parts actively harms the industry. Carbon Prices frozen, tax allowances for energy products scrapped, and a continued block to market for the cheapest forms of electricity.”

CIWM Says

Pat Jennings, Head of Policy & Communications for CIWM, said: “CIWM, alongside many other organisations across the sector, has repeatedly pressed for measures to stimulate secondary material markets, particularly to support and increase plastics recycling, where there is a degree of market failure. The new tax proposal is, therefore, welcome and we look forward to engaging fully with the consultation.

“This announcement, coupled with the recently launched consultation on banning some single-use plastic items, is a good start but there is still more to be done. Recyclability needs to be built in at the design stage and this will require a stronger and expanded Extended Producer Responsibility framework.

“We look forward to further proposals in the forthcoming Resources & Waste Strategy to deliver the Government’s ambition of zero avoidable plastic waste by 2042.”


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