ESA says supply chains need to take more responsibility for recycling

25 May 2016

The full costs of disposing of waste such as packaging from consumer products should be taken up by the supply chain rather than by local authorities.

This is among the recommendations in a new report, Delivering Sustainable Growth by the Environmental Services Association (ESA), the trade association for the UK's Resource & Waste Management Industry.

Falling commodity prices have hit recycling schemes making urgent Government intervention essential if the UK is to hit its target of recycling 50% of household waste by 2020, the report said.

ESA chairman Peter Gerstrom called for the development of better ways of recovering waste-derived products and for more efficient use of waste collection systems.

He also urged for waste crime driven out of the sector. This can include illegal dumping of waste and also misclassification of commercial waste to avoid higher taxes.

Another measure he considered essential was to introduce a new framework which transfers responsibility for waste disposal from local authorities to product supply chains.

Recycling in the UK has risen from near zero in the early 1990s to almost 45% today and supplies the UK with 12% of its renewable electricity, according to the report.

However after several years of falling in response to factors such as economic downturn household waste volumes are once again rising, which is putting a huge burden on local authority finances.

“Our industry is also currently experiencing immense challenges with the drop in commodity prices putting pressure on the economic viability of recycling. This unstable outlook has had knock-on implications for investment in waste infrastructure,” said Gerstrom.

“Combined, these factors are making the likelihood of the UK reaching its target of 50% household recycling by 2020 ever smaller.”

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