Waste and resources post-Brexit – is your business prepared?

Daniel James, Senior Environmental Consultant - Due Diligence, discusses the post-Brexit legislative changes due to come into effect and what businesses need to do to prepare.

02 Sep 2019

As things currently stand the UK is scheduled to formally leave the European Union on 31st October 2019, with both a deal or no deal scenario being considered by the UK Government. Whilst the date fast approaches, significant uncertainty remains over the UK’s future relationship with the European Union (EU) and what this means for potential changes in UK legislation. One area we do have some clarity over is what the future looks like for the government’s environmental policy.

The 29th March marks the date the government will transpose into legislation its 25 Year Environmental Plan. The overarching principle behind this plan being the government’s pledge to leave the environment in a better condition for the next generation. Described as the UK Governments roadmap for action, the plan is outlined through ten key goals:

  • Clean air
  • Clean and plentiful water
  • Thriving plants and wildlife
  • Reducing the risks of harm from environmental hazards
  • Using resources from nature more sustainably and efficiently
  • Enhancing beauty, heritage and engagement with the natural environment
  • Mitigating and adapting to climate change
  • Minimising waste
  • Managing exposure to chemicals
  • Enhancing biosecurity

Given that the Government is responsible for a number of UK-wide polices which affect several sectors, some aspects of the plan will apply to the UK as a whole. However in other areas where environmental policy is devolved, the proposals apply to England only. Since the original publication of this article in February 2019, the UK Government has issued a progress report that covers the period between January 2018 and March 2019. Within the update report it is indicated that progress has been made through; Stronger environmental governance, public money for public goods and biodiversity net gain.

In tandem, and supporting the overall environmental plan, sits the government’s new waste and resources strategy for England. This new legislation has the potential for significant operational impacts for businesses.

Under the proposed changes greater emphasis will be placed upon businesses to minimise waste and promote resource efficiency in a drive to create a circular economy. Measures will include:

  • Businesses and manufacturers paying the full cost of recycling or disposing of their packaging waste.
  • Legal onus will be placed on those responsible for producing damaging waste, to take greater responsibility and foot the bill for its recycling/disposal.
  • Clamping down on illegal movements of waste at home and abroad by introducing compulsory electronic tracking of waste, and tougher penalties for rogue waste crime operators if they mislabel their waste to dodge tax rules.
  • Introducing annual reporting of food surplus and waste by food businesses.
  • Explore mandatory guarantees and extended warranties on products, to encourage manufacturers to design products that last longer and drive up the levels of repair and re-use.
  • Introduce a deposit return scheme, to increase the recycling of single-use drinks containers including bottles, cans, and disposable cups filled.
  • Review producer responsibility schemes for items that can be harder or costly to recycle including cars, electrical goods, batteries and explore extending it to textiles, fishing gear, vehicle tyres, certain materials from construction and demolition, and bulky waste such as mattresses, furniture and carpets.

Sweeping legislative changes such as the above are anticipated to impact the: manufacturing, pharmaceutical, chemical, waste, electronics, consumer goods, food and drink, hospitality, supply chain technology and aerospace industries.  

Since the original publication of this article the government has confirmed its intention to work towards eliminating all avoidable waste 2050 and all avoidable plastic by 2042.

With these changes on the verge of implementation, now is the time to ask - is your business prepared?

With deep expertise in supporting businesses through change, RPS can work with you to look at how your business operates and to identify any areas of risk. To ensure you are prepared, and with limited disruption to day to day operations, we will work alongside you to construct a blueprint to effectively manage the legislative changes; making the transition process easy.

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