Post-Brexit reality requires UK to go further on developing waste and resources policies

Post-Brexit reality requires UK to go further on developing waste and resources policies

LONDON, 24 October 2018 – As the UK prepares for a post-Brexit future a new research note identifies how Britain needs to do more to extract additional value from the £7.2 billion contribution which the waste industry makes to the UK economy. “UK Waste Policy: a mixed bag” by Global Counsel explores the background to why it is a pivotal moment for waste policy in the UK today. The note unpacks key areas of policy debate with a forecast on what’s likely to be addressed in the forthcoming Waste and Resources Strategy from the British government and what’s likely to be left out.

While many in industry would like to see the UK Waste and Resources Strategy outline a systemic change, the current febrile political environment may mean the strategy outlines broad commitments but with the crucial detail to implement changes left for further consultation. Key areas to watch for include guidance for improving consistency among local authority recycling, deposit return schemes and reformed producer responsibility obligations.

Three of the areas of current debate centre around:


  • Currently in England alone there are more than 150 variations among 300+ local authorities in what materials are collected and in how the materials are collected
  • There is likely to be standardization of what’s collected with discretion on how materials are collected (timing, location of bins) left to local authorities.


  • With one of the lowest taxes on producers for managing the packaging that goes into circulation, reform of the UK’s Producer Responsibility Obligations will be one of the core elements of the Waste and Resources Strategy. Further mechanisms under discussion to improve recycling rates are retail-run deposit return schemes and direct charging for household collection based on the level of waste produced, with both presenting varying implications for how costs are passed on to consumers and households.

Increasing recycling quality:

  • Only a very small proportion of household waste sent for recycling is actually recycled, because of its poor quality as a result of the way in which it is collected
  • With current weight-based targets for recycling, there is an inherent incentive to recycle heavier objects – glass, rocks, etc. – that may not necessarily deliver quality outputs or contribute to wider objectives.


Elizabeth Beall, Global Counsel Practice Lead, said:

Plastics and what to do about them has shot to the front of the global policy agenda, dragging waste policy – an area most often relegated to the shadows – into the limelight. As policymakers clamour to get out ahead of this issue there is a considerable risk that the hype could distract from coherent policymaking. The question will be whether the strategy can satisfy the calls for ambitious transformative change while aiming to keep all corners happy as Brexit tensions rise.

The full research note ”UK waste policy: a mixed bag” is available online.



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Global Counsel helps businesses across a wide range of sectors anticipate the way in which politics, regulation and public policymaking create both risk and opportunity. Our advisers can interpret and anticipate the impacts of policy initiatives for businesses and other stakeholders, and help clients develop plans for shaping and adapting to them. Global Counsel advisers in Brussels and London, and our wider network of former policymakers in EU capitals, represent experience in every area of public policy and political communications. With sector specialisms including manufacturing, energy, financial services, technology, media and telecommunications, our practice leads combine decades of experience working with the European Commission, European Parliament and member states in the EU Council.