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Why the UK Needs to Simplify Waste Reform

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Gavin Graveson, Senior Executive Vice President for Veolia Northern Europe, comments on the government’s Resources and waste Strategy for England as a Parliamentary Inquiry convenes to consider written evidence submitted to it since the policy was first announced.

The Resources and Waste Strategy represents a huge transformation for the waste sector, but the delays since 2018 have created an environment where it is cheaper to pollute than it is to be sustainable. 

Now is the time to ensure each policy is fit for purpose. Reform needs to be simple, clear and deliverable to give businesses the assurances needed to invest substantially in the UK’s green infrastructure. This will drive the circular economy and create jobs, whilst bringing the nation closer to its net zero ambitions.

Where the government can significantly impact progress is through incentives that make it more expensive to pollute without placing a burden on taxpayers.

Veolia carries out half a billion residential collections in the UK every year and we support simpler recycling and clearer labelling for the public. We agree that the “seven bins” per household would be too complex, but this was never the Government’s proposal. This suggests to us that the country’s leaders may not fully appreciate the critical role of the Resources and Waste Strategy for both the industry and the UK as a whole.

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Where the government can significantly impact progress is through incentives that make it more expensive to pollute without placing a burden on taxpayers. An escalator for the current plastic packaging tax, addressing both the percentage of recycled content and the tax rate per tonne, would provide the necessary framework to encourage investment in UK recycling infrastructure and reduce carbon emissions from general waste treatment.

Furthermore, simplifying the extended producer responsibility scheme to focus on materials that are not easily recyclable, such as composites and laminate materials, would make eco-design more cost-effective for producers and drive innovation.

We cannot afford to delay, the inaction and lack of clarity from the government is not only preventing progress on our national recycling rates and journey to net zero, but crucially is not providing the confidence needed for investment in the UK’s green economy, jobs and infrastructure

Gavin Graveson

Gavin Graveson has been Senior Executive Vice-President, Northern Europe Zone, Veolia since February 2022 having previously served as Executive Vice-President of Veolia UK & Ireland from September 2018. He has also chaired industry organisation, the Environmental services Association (ESA) which is committed to delivering a zero carbon future, since November 2020 - visit https://www.esauk.org.

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  • Gavin Graveson

    Gavin Graveson has been Senior Executive Vice-President, Northern Europe Zone, Veolia since February 2022 having previously served as Executive Vice-President of Veolia UK & Ireland from September 2018. He has also chaired industry organisation, the Environmental services Association (ESA) which is committed to delivering a zero carbon future, since November 2020 - visit https://www.esauk.org.

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