Authorities to discuss temporary respite for industry under pressure
Temporary measures to help organisations faced with growing tonnages of recyclates they cannot move will be discussed by the Environment Agency and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) on Monday.
The meeting has been called by Defra in response to current market conditions that have seen the value of materials fall dramatically as overseas buyers have withdrawn their business. A fall in demand from China has hit some sectors particularly hard, for example paper and plastics.
Some local authorities and companies cannot sell enough material to stay below the current regulations’ storage limits, forcing them to consider the option of landfilling it.
An EA spokesman said: “As soon as we became aware of these sudden changes in the market we started preparing guidance that we will formally discuss with Defra. We are having pre-meetings this week with bodies such as the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) to prepare. The whole process in moving quickly to help local authorities and the waste management industry as soon as possible.”
Environment Agency producer responsibility advisor Adrian Harding said: 'We recognise that these are exceptional market conditions and could have a potential impact on maintaining waste treatment capacity, achieving recycling targets and avoiding illegal disposal of waste. We are preparing guidance for Environment Agency staff and operators on how we can best respond to these challenges to minimise the impact on the environment.'
Environment Minister Jane Kennedy also confirmed that the matter was “an important issue” when asked by MP Michael Jack how the Government would avoid growing “mountains of materials” following “a catastrophic fall in the prices of plastic bottles, paper and cans”.
Kennedy said the issues was a “growing problem” and said that Defra would “want to take stock of the situation”.
“I acknowledge that the Right Hon. Gentleman raises an important issue,” Kennedy added.
Last week plastics trade organisation Recoup called for “some slack in the system” to enable plastics processers to store extra tonnages legally to avoid landfilling material.