There is little doubt that Brexit will have an impact on UK policy making. In fact, it has had some pretty positive impact on our waste management in the UK. A wonderful example of this is the 1999 Landfill directive. Now, we know this may not sound desperately exciting. However, it saw the amount of municipal waste dumped in landfill sites decrease from 80% in 2000 to 20% in 2014 which is pretty darn impressive.
And it’s not just in waste management that the EU has had an impact, but in our recycling rates. Currently, the EU dictates over 30,000 pieces of legislation, which is a pretty hefty figure. Unsurprisingly, a few of these are to do with recycling. Which, in fairness to us Brits we are working pretty hard to improve on. Since the turn of the millennium, Britain’s recycling levels have increased from just over 10% to a current rate of 44%. This is a pretty impressive uptake and means we are someway close the reaching the EU directive of a 50% recycling rate by 2020. This is unsurprising given we only had just over two years to reach those targets. However, where things get slightly trickier is the EU’s decision to increase that to 65% by 2030. With some councils still lagging somewhat behind even that 50% rate, there is a suggestion that we may not quite make that target in time. Specifically, with some evidence of stagnation and, of course, now we have left the EU there may be far more leniency over reaching these targets. Although, a number of analysts argue that overall, Britain already has momentum and with or without the EU most people would agree that the more we can recycle the better. Not only that, but in 10 years the UK will, quite simply, run out of landfill meaning a commitment to recycling is pretty much paramount.
That being said, even without a clear EU policy, for any real investment to occur we will need to have some form of directive, or some level of clarity in regards to our future waste strategies or targets.
What might prove problematic is losing the collective power and infrastructure of the European Union especially given their circular economy strategy that has been in the offing for quite a few years. Not expected to come into force for a good few years the package aims to create a “concrete and ambitious programme of action” which covers the entire journey of packaging from start to end. Essentially, it would force manufacturers to take responsibility for products they made as well as bringing in far more ambitious targets for recycling. Whereas it seems unlikely the UK will follow in this programme once it leaves the EU, which may prove somewhat problematic especially as there are currently 480 billion plastic drinking bottles with demand expected to soar another 20% by 2021, which will require a more solid infrastructure plan than the one currently seen in the UK.
The hope is, if course, that despite Brexit, the British government will still focus on increasing our levels of recycling and building a more sustainable and richer British environment for all.
At Brantlegh Waste we are utterly committed to helping Brits improve their recycling rates so if you have any questions at all please feel free to give us a call on 0333 8000 613.