A New Waste Management Plan For England

The UK Government is consulting on a new waste management plan for England. Local authorities need to make sure that they are up to date with the plan, as they must have regard to the waste management plan and to the national planning policy for waste when deciding whether to grant or refuse waste planning applications and when producing waste local plans to establish how they will manage waste within their areas.

The Government is required by the Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2011 to review its waste management plan every six years and those regulations specify details which must be included in the plan.

The proposed plan on which the Government is consulting reflects the Government’s 25 year environment plan (1) and its Resources and Waste Strategy (2). The aim of the waste management plan is to bring current waste management policies under one umbrella national plan. The waste management plan, together with the policies to which it refers, are intended to move England to a circular economy, which keeps resources in use as long as possible. In the case of waste management, this will involve recovering and regenerating products and materials whenever possible.

The waste management plan addresses the following subjects:

  • The waste hierarchy. The plan acknowledges that the UK’s waste hierarchy, with its priority of prevention of waste, followed by preparing waste for reuse, then recycling and recovery, has driven some progress but identifies a need to focus not only on managing waste but also on the resources that become waste.
  • Waste regulation. The plan recognises the need for regulation and its enforcement to be proportionate but says that it is important for it to be appropriate to the risks and targeted towards those with poor standards of compliance or who cause nuisance or harm and those who deliberately flout the law.
  • Waste arisings. UK Government statistics show that in England total waste generation increased from 168 million tonnes in 2010 to 187 million tonnes in 2016. The plan reports that data on waste has radically improved through the creation of Waste DataFlow and says that the Resources and Waste Strategy sets out plans for achieving a similar change to produce data on resource inputs, stocks and flows, and expand knowledge of commercial, industrial, construction and demolition wastes.
  • Resources and Waste. The plan identifies that as well as importing and exporting goods, the UK imports and exports waste. The plan notes the strict controls on this but also says that waste producers have an important role to play in ensuring that the waste that they produce or collect is treated in a responsible manner and that the risk of subsequent illegal export is minimised.
  • Waste services. The plan notes that treating waste as a resource has led to complexities in waste management services and that these are exacerbated by the variation in waste services across England.
  • Extended producer responsibility. The Government considers extended producer responsibility to be crucial to moving waste up the hierarchy and stimulating growth in secondary materials markets.
  • Measures to combat all forms of littering and to clean up all types of litter. The plan identifies the comprehensive range of legislation and policies to combat littering in England.
  • Assessment of the need for new collection schemes and infrastructure and the closure of waste infrastructure.
  • Waste planning. The plan observes that the Government is consulting on major reforms to the planning system (3). If the reforms proposed in that White Paper are taken forward, they would mean consequential changes to the National Planning Policy Framework and to the National Planning Policy for Waste.
  • Additional Infrastructure. The plan notes that the National Infrastructure Commission published its first National Infrastructure Assessment in July 2018, which set out its assessment of the UK’s long-term infrastructure needs, including resources and waste. The Government will respond to the recommendations in that assessment through a National Infrastructure Strategy.
  • Technologies for managing residual waste.
  • Evaluation of the development of waste streams in the future.

The consultation will close on 15 October 2020. A copy of the consultation document can be accessed at: https://consult.defra.gov.uk/waste-and-recycling/waste-management-plan-for-england/

(1) A Green Future: Our 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment, published by HM Government in 2018
(2) Our waste, our resources: a strategy for England, published by HM Government in 2018
(3) Planning For The Future White Paper, published by the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government, August 2020, analysed by Geldards in its article The Planning White Paper – Planning for the Future, published in August 2020

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