NAO report states that DEFRA lacks effective plan to reduce waste

According to a new report published by the National Audit Office (NAO), the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has not got an effective long-term plan in place to reduce waste which contributes to climate change.

The Government published ‘Our Waste, Our Resources: A Strategy for England’ in December 2018, which set out plans to cut costs and reduce environmental damage by establishing a circular economy where more products last for longer and are reused. 

Four years on, it has been found that the Government has put no effective delivery plans in place to achieve its long-term ambitions for resource and waste management. Stakeholders from across the waste management sector, local authorities and environmental groups have expressed concern at Defra’s lack of prioritisation.  

Uncertainty and delay 

Previously, the government was working toward an EU-derived target for the UK to recycle 50% of waste from households by 2020 – but this has not been achieved – with household recycling rates remaining static at around 43-44% since 2011-12. 

The Government has established its flagship collection and packaging reforms, split into three main schemes which all seek to reduce waste from packaging and increase recycling rates. The deposit return scheme aims to reduce litter from drinks containers, but the delivery of the scheme is uncertain given numerous delays. The report states that weaknesses in Defra’s set up of the collection and packaging reforms – along with factors outside of its control – have contributed to delays, and the risk of not delivering to the latest timetable is still high. 

Gareth Davies, the head of the NAO commented: “Reducing waste is critical to reducing emissions and achieving some of government’s wider environmental goals, but Defra does not have effective long term plans for how it will achieve its ambitions for reducing waste, and there has been delay to its implementation of reforms. Defra must now establish a clear and coherent plan for its work on waste and resources, addressing the weaknesses in the reforms already in progress. If Defra takes these steps, it will be in a much stronger position to achieve its ambitions.” 

Robbie Staniforth, Ecosurety’s Innovation and Policy Director commented: "Given how close we have been to policy development, the NAO's assessment comes as no surprise. Many years have now passed since the strategy was published. New policy that improves environmental outcomes is very close, but until the full legislation is passed and the law comes force, investment in the sector will continue to be stifled. However, we should be grateful that the data reporting legislation is published. It is vital to know the numbers before the systems starts."

Read the full NAO report.

Support for producers

The report states that Defra’s delays and lack of planning is making it increasingly difficult for businesses to prepare for investment and regulatory changes that will be required to achieve the department’s long-term plans. 

Despite delays and uncertainty, Ecosurety assures our members that we’re here to help every step of the way. Data reporting for packaging EPR has just begun with the H1 2023 submission, including increased data reporting requirements for producers under the new regulations. 

If you're a member, keep an eye out for emails from us, as we will contact you to tell you what your next steps are.  

If you're not yet a member, please get in touch to find out how we can support you. Benefit from our range of expert submission support, tailored to suit your organisation, depending on how much assistance you need. 

Written by Louise Shellard Published 03/07/2023 Topics Packaging
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