A presentation was given to the Committee on local, national and local authority waste-related stories that have been in the media.
It was reported that four men have been jailed for their involvement in a people trafficking ring which saw Polish migrants forced to work in recycling centres in the region. Migrant workers had been encouraged to come to the UK and were given national insurance numbers and bank accounts. The men were employed in legitimate recycling centres as agency staff, however the criminal gang were controlling their bank accounts. Also, the victims were deprived of money and food and made to live in cramped, unfit accommodation lacking basic facilities. Four men were convicted of conspiring to transport people for exploitation and forcing people into labour, as well as conspiring to conceal criminal property after laundering £1m through the victims’ bank accounts. It was reported that the details of the recycling firms involved and the number of victims have been withheld due to further legal action being undertaken.
It was noted that changes to Cabinet has resulted in Michael Gove replacing Andrea Leadsom as Environment Secretary. It is as yet unclear whether Therese Coffey has retained her position as Resources Minister.
Committee was reminded that the Greater Manchester Waste Disposal Authority (GMWDA) agreed to terminate its PFI contract with Viridor Laing, eight years after it was signed in 2009. Total investment in the contract was over £631m. The 25 year £3.2bn contract provided waste management for nine councils across the Greater Manchester area. It was noted negotiations between Viridor Laing and GMWDA are ongoing to begin to ascertain the financial implications of the termination.
In April the Government published its first ever Litter Strategy for England as part of its 25 year environment plan. The strategy identifies its aims to become one of the most resource efficient countries in the world by reducing waste and litter to create an anti-litter culture and therefore reduce the £800m burden to the taxpayer of clean-up costs. The strategy focuses on three broad themes; education and awareness, improving enforcement and better cleaning and litter infrastructure. Some of the proposals contained in the strategy include; £150 fines for the most serious litterers, penalty notices for vehicle owners when litter is thrown from their vehicle, new guidance for councils to update the nations ‘binfrastructure’ through creative bin designs and better distribution of public litter bins. The strategy also calls for councils to stop charging householders for the disposal of DIY waste at HWRCs. Keep Britain Tidy welcomed the strategy but stated that there needed to be effective monitoring to ensure that the strategy can make a measurable difference. The Chartered Institution of Wastes Management also welcomed the actions proposed, however the Environmental Services Association claimed that it was uncertain how many of the proposals would be funded.
It was noted that the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (LARAC) has warned against the introduction of a deposit return style incentive scheme for plastic bottles as it could make council recycling services less efficient as it would remove plastic bottles from council kerbside collection schemes. However, support for a scheme has gained momentum and in the Litter Strategy the Government pledged to establish a working group to look at the advantages and disadvantages of different types of deposit and rewards and return schemes for drinks containers. In addition, the London Assembly has urged the Mayor of London to explore the potential of a plastic bottle return scheme.
It was reported the Resource Minister Therese Coffey indicated that, following Brexit, the UK could have a ‘new direction’ in terms of waste and recycling policy, in particular around changes to the use of weight-based targets.
Committee was advised that waste crime in England is costing the waste industry and taxpayer more than £600m per year, according to the Environmental Services Association Educational Trust. The majority of waste crime is associated with waste from businesses and includes; illegal waste sites, illegal export of waste, burning of waste, fly-tipping and breaches of permit conditions. It was also reported that there are weak regulations in terms of anyone can obtain a licence to carry waste by paying a small online fee with minimal checks. Recommendations were made to modernise the system and tighten up regulation, increase enforcement and ban repeat offenders.
Tesco plc has partnered with the Hilton Food Group and packaging manufacturer LINPAC to maximise the recyclability potential of its plastic fresh food packaging. The new packaging is manufactured from over 95% food safe recycled content recovered from plastic water bottles disposed with household waste. The design makes the product 5% lighter in weight and, due to the reduced number of materials in its manufacture, its carbon footprint has significantly reduced. The plastic recycling charity RECOUP has recognised this as important work in achieving a circular economy. It was also reported that Tesco has extended its ‘Perfectly Imperfect’ food range to include additional fruits which would previously have been wasted.
RESOLVED - That the Joint Executive Committee noted the information