‘Uncertainty’ was the watchword following the UK’s vote to leave the European Union known as Brexit. Thankfully, trade bodies in the waste industry have promptly stepped up to the plate to allay any fears in the UK’s waste management and plastic recycling sectors.
Tackling uncertainty after Brexit, defending gains
At the Chartered Institution of Waste Management (CIWM), CEO Steve Lee put forward an opinion that the majority of CIWM members and environmental sector professionals did not wish to exit the EU. He indicated that he felt that EU membership and its associated regulation has had a positive and strong effect on the quality of the environment, together with corollary benefits for jobs, skills, health and well-being and sustainability.
Lee went on to argue that the uncertainties, ranging from legal and regulatory to financial and economic, could threaten to slow the pace of or even reverse the improvements experienced by the industry over recent years. Ultimately, however, Lee accepted the result of the referendum and stated that it is now imperative that the industry, its institutions and waste management and plastic recycling professionals work together to safeguard and build upon their achievements to date.
The CIWM CEO further called for determination, leadership and a readiness to work with future governments whatever their political allegiances in order to protect industry gains and push towards further improvements. Working together, he said, is the only way to plan and deliver on forward-facing strategies to support continued investment in the waste management industry.
Creating policy for a resource-efficient future
The Resource Association’s chief executive Ray Georgeson echoed the comments from the CIWM regarding the uncertainties ahead. Georgeson emphasised that the value of a circular economy, powered by recycling technologies such as plastic regrinds, should be advocated with additional vigour. This could help to tackle policy uncertainty, Georgeson said, by seeking clear reassurances and signals from Government that it understands the value of the industry. Of the utmost importance is a firm commitment to a resource-efficient future whether the UK is in the EU or not.
Other industry CEOs in the recycling and recovery sector recognised the potential contradictions and the possibility of a policy vacuum as negotiations between the UK and EU unfold in the years ahead. The devolved administrations of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have all underlined their commitment to increasing the resource efficiency of the UK economy.
On the other hand, EU membership is seen by many as having been the primary and most effective driver of stronger environmental policy and regulation. This has helped the UK to shed its reputation as the “dirty man of Europe” to become a consistent global leader in environmental reform and performance. The industry will be looking to Whitehall for vision and leadership to continue this rapid progress.
In the opinion of Steve Lee, the direction of travel in the sector is one area not threatened by uncertainty. The imperative to further increase resource security and efficiency will only become stronger, in turn making the need to develop an economy built upon circular resource consumption critical to the future of the country. Lee plans to commence this task by calling an early meeting with the new Government to explore common ground between the industry and authorities.