Is £1bn Needed to Take Responsibility for our Waste?

The UK is in the midst of a waste crisis. It’s been in the news, it’s been in blogs, but worse than that, it’s been washing up on shores in Asia, it’s being uncovered in illegal landfills in Malaysia and Poland, it’s being burned in Africa, and it’s being put on ships and sent back from all around the world.

It’s clear that we have to take responsibility for our waste. To do that, we need the funds to invest in our own recycling facilities and industry, with some experts suggesting £1 billion could do the trick. Where are we going to pluck that money from?

The Government has a big problem

Local councils up and down the land, for a long time, have expressed their belief that they are given an unwanted and thankless task of taking responsibility for the bulk of the UK’s waste. They are right, and it was even found that more than half of the UK’s councils have experienced huge waste cost surges in 2018 (the domino effect of China) and that 14 of the UK’s councils are spending more than £500,000 more than last year to handle the waste. In 2017, UK councils spent £700m on waste management.

 

Could 2019 fare better? We hope so.

 

The Government has a big idea!

If the responsibility of waste is not that of the public sector organisation who were set up to handle it (which is dubious, of course), then it should surely then fall on those who produce the packaging in the first place. 

Under the Government’s new ‘Resources and Waste Strategy’, it is supermarkets, retailers, and major drinks brands who are going to have to cough up to pay the price of recycling. Right now, they pay a tiny fraction, roughly £73m a year, and if the Government has their way, this is going to surge up closer to the £1bn mark. 

Government ministers have a couple of other solid ideas, such as improving domestic recycling infrastructure so that we recycle more in the UK, and to stop abusing ‘easy target’ export markets. 

Whilst a jump of £73m to £1bn seems pretty heavy, right now small retailers, off-licenses, small supermarkets and other small-sized outlets have not actually been a part of the contribution scheme for recycling. Lower the threshold and suddenly the money recuperated increases dramatically and we immediately become more responsible for our waste.

The EU steps in and has its say

We shan’t be too quick to forget that the EU Circular Economy Package, which we are likely to commit to, even after Brexit, which states that retailers must cover the net costs of household recycling collections by local authorities. 

Sky CEO, Jeremy Darroch, has his say

Have you ever heard the term ‘Rubbish Laundering’? It’s a new term that some are using to explain how UK organisations are sneaking their waste onto shipments around the world to try and get rid of it. Well, the CEO of Sky, Jeremy Darroch, has had this to say:

 "With around 90 per cent of the plastic waste that enters the marine environment every year via rivers attributed to 10 in Africa and Asia, we are often quick to blame the developing world for the crisis.

"Yet by pumping waste to countries ill-equipped to deal with the barrage of plastic Britain is guilty of passing the buck to some of the world's most disadvantaged people.

Ending the UK's plastic shame means taking responsibility for our waste on British soil. This means turning off the plastic tap at source and radically overhauling our broken waste management system."

Perhaps he has a big point. We think he does, at least.