Going Round in Circles: Developing a new approach to waste policy following Brexit

Time & Date

Thursday 23rd March 2017

08:30 – Registration
09:00 – Start
10:30 – End


Policy Exchange
6th Floor
8-10 Great George Street

The ‘Leave’ vote in the EU Referendum has opened up questions about waste policy in the UK for the first time in decades. Since joining the European Union, UK waste policy has been largely determined by European Directives – such as the Waste Framework Directive and Landfill Directive. The European Commission has proposed a ‘Circular Economy’ package, which includes ambitious targets to increase municipal recycling to 65% by 2030, and limit landfilling to 10% of municipal waste by 2030.

These policies have had a transformational impact on the way we manage waste and resources in the UK. Over the last decade, total resource consumption and waste arisings have fallen; recycling rates have increased; and the amount of waste going to landfill has fallen substantially.

However, whilst there have been some notable successes, there are also some significant shortcomings in the EU’s approach towards waste, as highlighted by our new report, Going Round in Circles. The report argues that the objectives of European waste policies have become muddled, and the targets are badly designed. The report shows that adopting the “Circular Economy” proposals would add £2 billion of cost to UK businesses and households. European waste policies fail to recognise the economic fundamentals – for example that commodity prices have fallen sharply since 2008, undermining the economics of recycling.

The report argues that following Brexit, there is an opportunity for the UK to define an approach which suits us better, reframed around a much clearer set of objectives, and underpinned by a coherent set of targets and policies. Waste policies should be framed around the idea of increasing resource productivity (rather than the more nebulous language of creating a “circular economy”) and contribute to the Government’s emerging Industrial Strategy.

To mark the launch of the report, Policy Exchange held an event to discuss both the proposals made in the report, and broader questions concerning the future direction of waste and resources policy following Brexit.

Speakers included:

  • Paul Taylor, Group Chief Executive, FCC Environment
  • Sarah Heald, Director of Corporate Affairs & Investor Relations at Pennon Group
  • Professor Margaret Bates, President of the Chartered Institute for Waste Management
  • James Murray, Editor-in-chief, BusinessGreen

This event is kindly sponsored by FCC Environment

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