More than two years after it was first introduced, the UK government’s Environment Act has finally received Royal Assent. Created to outline the government’s sustainability vision, clarify environmental governance post-Brexit and map out the transition towards a more circular economy, Environment Secretary George Eustice believes the Act will deliver ‘the most ambitious environmental programme of any country on earth’.
Key provisions include legislative drivers to halt the decline of species by 2030, improve air quality, protect the health of our rivers, track deforestation and revolutionise our approach to waste management. These changes will be driven by legally-binding targets, with both the government and public bodies held to account by the newly-created Office for Environmental Protection.
Commenting on the announcement, Tom Giddings, general manager of Alupro, said: “We warmly welcome the Environment Act. We’re glad to see movement – it’s been a long time coming – and commend the government for its continued hard work and engagement with the sector throughout the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s good to see the Act address a diverse range of environmental issues and challenges, many of which have been ignored for far too long. When it comes to provisions relating to waste management, such as the introduction of a highly-functioning Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) and much-needed reforms to funding recycling in the UK through a new Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) scheme, we’re looking forward to reading the government’s responses to its recent consultations.
“As we transition towards a new dawn of waste management, in what is being positioned as a once in a generation opportunity, we’d like to see a number of commitments and decisions agreed to help create a world-class recycling system for the UK. These should include:
- The roll-out of a well-designed all-in DRS that promotes high collection volumes and increased recycling rates for beverage cans. This will require a variable deposit rate based on container size, the provision of innovative on-the-go recycling systems in hard-to-reach areas and the facilitation of closed-loop recycling in-line with government procurement policies.
- Reforms to EPR that account for the intrinsic value of infinitely recyclable aluminium and deliver a higher recycling rate than ever before. This requires a design that maximises the collection of quality packaging from homes and businesses, promotes the use of existing systems to maximise yield, incentivises the value chain to recycle/report accurate data and details ambitious (yet achievable) targets for all materials.
- The development of ambitious on-the-go collection infrastructure that reduces the loss of recyclable material to landfill due to unnecessary contamination.
- The recognition of incinerator bottom ash (IBA) as a solution to keeping unsorted recyclable materials, such as aluminium, in the value chain for longer and the inclusion of recovery volumes within recycling rates.
- The deployment of cutting-edge recycling technologies, via a clear infrastructure investment framework, that facilitate the widespread recycling of all aluminium packaging.
“The Environment Act shows that the UK’s resources and waste management sector is set for important change. It provides a huge opportunity, but getting things right first time is key. We look forward to reading the government’s consultation responses and hope that real progress can be made towards creating a world-leading circular economy for materials and resources.”
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