Government must up resource efficiency efforts

20th August 2012

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  • Manufacturing



MPs need to broaden the scope of Defra's resource security action plan and consider incentivising efficiency if the UK is to adapt to a resource-constrained future

In an open letter to Caroline Spelman and Vince Cable, organisations representing the UK’s manufacturing sector have been joined by environment bodies in calling on the government to take a more coordinated and ambitious approach to resource efficiency.

The Materials Security Working Group, whose members include the EEF, Friends of the Earth, IEMA and the British Plastics Federation, argues that Defra’s resource security action plan, published in March, falls short of addressing issues that could leave the economy vulnerable in the future.

The government should review the packaging and producer responsibility regimes, realign recycling targets to better consider the quality of recovered waste; and set up a new body to coordinate resource efficiency across Whitehall, according to the group.

In a series of recommendations sent to the environment and business secretaries, the group argues that the packaging recovery regime incentivises the export of recycling waste overseas, resulting in an important feedstock leave the country and undermining domestic reprocessing facilities. It suggests the government consider separate targets for domestic and exported recovery and potentially lowering the value of export packaging recovery notes.

Similarly, it encourages the government to rethink producer responsibilities, suggesting that ministers consider offering rewards to electronics manufacturers that design products that are easier to recycle and reduced VAT rates for resource efficient products.

“Creating the right incentives to encourage and support manufacturers in rolling out products and services that reduce waste along the whole supply chain will be critical in using resource more productively and securely in future and to further decouple resource use from gross domestic product,” the report states.

Other recommendations in the report include extending the resource security action plan to a wider range of materials, such as certain grades of plastic, rather than just key rare raw materials and banning certain wastes from being sent to energy-from-waste plants.

“The UK buries and burns at least £650 million a year of valuable materials,” confirmed Julian Kirby, Friends of the Earth resource campaigner. “Ministers must take action to prevent a growing resource crisis becoming a catastrophe for our economy and the environment.

“A new office of resource management would ensure all departments create jobs and boost the economy by slashing the waste of natural resources.”

The report also argues that the government should do more to educate consumers and businesses on the importance of resource security, warning that: “Throughout the supply chain, and amongst some politicians whose decisions impact upon it, there is a failure to grasp and act on the material security benefits of waste prevention and resource efficiency.”

Josh Fothergill, IEMA’s policy and practice lead on resources, said: “The government’s resource security action plan was a first step in engaging companies in the key environmental issue of resource security. The time is now right for new collaborative action to integrate key environmental skills with the UK’s existing business acumen to manage risk and generate growth and environmental improvements through resource management.”

Gareth Stace, EEF’s head of climate and environment policy, agreed: “Government must now step up its ambitions and produce a bolder plan of action that deals with the challenges not just now but in the longer term.”


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