A forklift raises a bale of aluminium cans for recycling
Published date: 5 July 2023

NLWA supports call for Defra clarity as report indicates England will miss key waste targets

North London Waste Authority (NLWA) strongly supports recommendations made by the National Audit Office (NAO) last week in its report examining how government resources and waste reforms have been managed by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra). 

The NAO called on Defra to reduce uncertainty for businesses and local authorities by having clearer long-term plans in place for the delivery of key reforms. NLWA fully endorses this advice and welcomes the opportunity to be more involved in the implementation of critical government programmes.

“We were glad to read last week’s NAO report, which echoes our own concerns about Defra’s lack of clear goals and effective future planning,” said Cllr Clyde Loakes, NLWA Chair. “We know our residents are committed to being more sustainable but changing goalposts make it impossible to plan for the future. We strongly agree with the report’s recommendation that Defra needs to share more detailed delivery timelines with business and local government stakeholders.”

NLWA agrees with the report’s finding that there needs to be a more considered and holistic approach to meet the government’s waste reduction targets. North London residents are keen to see positive change in the waste management sector, but the NAO suggests current collection and packaging reforms will only take England halfway towards meeting its legislative target of a 50% reduction in residual waste by 2042. Much more comprehensive and collaborative planning for the future of waste management is needed not only from Defra but across government. 

The primary concerns in the report were Defra’s insufficient long-term planning to deliver on government objectives, its poor ability to measure performance in waste reduction, and the lack of a vision for how the waste system as a whole needs to change. These concerns have long been held by NLWA, as short-term, fragmented projects have been implemented with little impact on the broader economy. Recent policy announcements (such as the removal of DIY waste charges) have targeted local government authorities while largely ignoring the commercial and industrial waste that accounts for one fifth of all waste generated in the UK. 

“We want to work collaboratively to implement change, but so far Defra has demonstrated poor understanding of how local authorities operate. We welcome the recommendations of the report and urge Defra to allow us to help shape its strategies for the future,” said Cllr Loakes. “We share the same goal of improving how the UK manages waste, but we can only achieve that when all levels of government work in partnership and there is a shared understanding of the implementation challenges faced at the ground level.”

The report also noted that weaknesses in the set-up of the extended producer responsibility (EPR) scheme led to this vital waste reduction measure being delayed, with the risk of further delays still high. This speaks to a wider trend of policy initiatives being stalled due to ineffective implementation and bureaucratic setbacks. The implementation of EPR needs to be prioritised and protected from further delays, with the revenue raised handed over to local authorities so it can be reinvested in the community

NLWA fully endorses the report’s recommendation that there needs to be a review of the EPR scheme, and calls on Defra to consult with industry and local authority stakeholders to ensure the programme is rolled out efficiently without delay. This needs to be done as a matter of priority, so that local councils can prepare for the necessary collection and disposal changes and invest in the infrastructure and services required to meet their own and the governments objectives