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Defra: Introducing New Circular Economy ‘Waste Reduction’ Policy

The Circular Economy Initiative

The UK government has unveiled ambitious plans aimed at advancing the adoption of a circular economy approach, which is geared towards promoting resourcefulness and an uptick in repair, reuse, and recycling activities.

Rebecca Pow, the Waste and Resources Minister, unveiled this plan, marking another significant stride for Defra (The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) after the delay in implementing extended producer responsibility (EPR) until October 2025.

The new programme encompasses a number of projects spanning seven pivotal sectors: construction, textiles, furniture, electronics, food, road vehicles, and plastics/packaging. At the heart of this initiative lies the aspiration to enhance product design and resource reuse, creating job opportunities and fostering economic growth.

Designing a Waste-Free Future

With an emphasis on ‘designing out waste’, the government seeks to spearhead transformative changes in product design, ensuring products are not only long-lasting but also easily repairable and recyclable. The roadmap also hints at a possibility of remanufacturing certain products.

Key strategies such as eco-design, consumer information, and EPR schemes are set to be employed. There’s also a nod to encouraging the recycling of fast fashion and facilitating collections of textile waste from businesses. Additionally, changes are coming in the regulations surrounding waste electricals and battery handling.

To further incentivise the populace, plans are in motion to eliminate collection fees for bulky domestic furniture by 2025.

Environment Minister Rebecca Pow, encapsulating the vision, stated: “We mean business when it comes to preventing waste. We’re targeting the sectors responsible for the biggest impacts on the environment, and working with business to take the right steps for better use of our precious resources.”

Industry Reactions

The commitment to a waste-conscious future isn’t without its challenges. DS Smith has projected a delay in the UK meeting its 2030 recycling rate target by 13 years, casting a shadow of doubt on achieving a 65% municipal waste recycling rate by 2035.

However, key industry stakeholders remain hopeful. Harriet Lamb, WRAP CEO, asserted, “Increasing repair and reuse is key to supporting the move towards more circular living which many people and community groups are embracing and WRAP welcomes more support for such initiatives.”

Lee Marshall of CIWM, while lauding the commitment, rightly voiced the sentiment of many, saying, “This is a welcome note of positivity after the announcement of the delays to other policy measures but, as always, the devil will be in the detail.”

The Let’s Recycle It Perspective

As one of the loudest voices for the government creating both incentives and requirements for businesses to produce recyclable products from recycled materials, Let’s Recycle It strongly believes in the transformative power of a circular economy. While policies and programmes are the foundation of change, a collective societal shift in the mindset surrounding production and consumption will be the deciding factor.

The government’s new initiative, though promising, is a mere steppingstone in our journey to a waste-free world. For this vision to materialise, it demands unwavering commitment, not just from policymakers but from individuals, businesses, and communities.

If we want to ensure the goal of a circular economy is a realistic and achievable one, then we must understand that a strong recycling sector will be at its core. Legislating to make recycling as readily accessible and economically viable as possible will be of paramount importance. From supporting UK recyclers, to making it easier for businesses to export waste to reputable, licensed recyclers overseas, to mandating businesses to recycle waste and use recycled materials, no stone can go unturned.

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