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FCC Chief Executive Officer Paul Taylor considers the outlook for the waste and resource sector post-election

01 Jun 2017 11:19

With the UK set to go to the polls on June 8th, and the official negotiations on Brexit commencing only a couple of weeks afterwards, the debate over the future of waste and resource policy is likely to come into full focus.

As we are all aware, the industry has historically been divided on the best approach to tackle key issues, but the prospect of a new government and subsequent UK-EU negotiations offer a chance to have an honest conversation about how we make UK policy fit for purpose. This means the industry must present a unified front, to ensure the government takes our sector seriously, and recognises its invaluable contribution to the UK economy.

As the UK seeks to navigate its future position outside the EU, it is clear to us that the government should not simply settle for the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach previously adopted by EU environmental directives. Instead, we would like to see the development of a more coherent set of policies which better suit the country’s fiscal environment. A new government with new priorities and a strong mandate should be empowered to enact this change.

For a long time, waste and resources have been low on the UK government’s list of priorities, in part because waste policy has been heavily driven by EU law. This means that, historically, there have been limited opportunities for the UK to determine the direction of our domestic waste policy. Until now.

A new report published by Policy Exchange has for the first time revealed the economic potential of the UK waste and resource sector. ‘Going Round in Circles’ highlighted a number of significant shortcomings in the EU’s current approach to waste, including unclear and muddled objectives, a failure to reflect economic fundamentals (such as plummeting commodity prices), and a utilisation of poor data and definitions which is making it difficult to develop effective policies.

Most strikingly, Policy Exchange’s research reveals that continuing to implement EU waste policies post-Brexit would cost British businesses and households an additional £2 billion over the next two decades. Moreover, the UK’s lack of investment in the Energy from Waste (EfW) sector has meant that a burgeoning market for companies exporting residual waste overseas has emerged, where it is burned to produce energy. This has cost the UK over £900 million in gate fees since 2011 (including £280 million in 2016 alone).

These figures paint a stark picture. However, with the new opportunities posed by next week’s general election vote and by Brexit, FCC Environment hopes to play an invaluable role in providing the aforementioned innovative solutions to the Government’s Industrial Strategy. As one of the largest waste and resource management companies in the UK, we are well-placed to partner with local and national government to build the essential energy and waste infrastructure to boost economic productivity and resource efficiency.  Brexit is a seminal moment for the UK, and we should have a waste and resource policy which reflects this.

I am confident that our industry will prosper – particularly longer term, post-Brexit. However, the UK needs to use the unprecedented chance we’ve been given to create a smarter approach to managing our domestic waste, and support a strategically important sector that continues to drive growth and productivity. It’s a bold opportunity that we would urge the next government to take advantage of.

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