The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has called on Defra to provide more ‘clarity’ on its reforms to prevent ill-informed investment into recycling services and procurement. The calls were part of the PAC report on waste reforms, published last Friday. Chair of the committee and Labour MP, Dame Meg Hillier explained that net zero emissions targets won’t be met “without a clearly communicated vision from Government on how crucial reforms will actually work in practice.”
In the report, the PAC explained that Defra’s recent schemes to improve the UK circular economy have lacked proper clarity on how they will work. The PAC report explained that the most recent reforms have relied on businesses and consumers changing how they dispose of their waste.
It is feared that a lack of understanding by local authorities and businesses will lead to ill-informed investment decisions. Reforms such as the ‘Simpler Recycling’ scheme could lead to higher quantities of recycling up in landfill due to a lack of sufficient waste management facilities. The report explained that local authorities and businesses are "unable to prepare for the required changes due to a lack of clarity on what form the reforms will take and the impact on council funding."
Many in the sector have welcomed the findings of the PAC report. Recycling policy adviser at the Environmental Services Association (ESA), Patrick Brighty, said the ESA is "encouraged” by Defra’s commitment to rectifying weaknesses in its collection reforms. However more needs to be done. He said:
Following the publication of Simpler Recycling in October, the recycling and waste sector will need time to work with our local authority partners, and business waste producers in England, to determine collection systems and make the corresponding process and infrastructure changes at sorting facilities.
Resolving this outstanding uncertainty will unlock the £10 billion investment that our members stand ready to make in delivering on Government’s ambitious programme of waste reforms.
The committee made six recommendations to Defra on what needs to be changed. One of those recommendations included a request for the department to write to PAC within the next year about upcoming waste prevention and reuse measures and their expected contribution to doubling resource efficiency by 2050. Dame Meg Hillier said:
With businesses and local authorities crying out for information, the Government needs to provide certainty as soon as possible to make sure the necessary investments and procurement can take place.