The government plans to retain Europe's circular economy principles, but it is still pondering a new UK-led approach to waste targets.
At a House of Commons Environmental Audit committee looking at ‘The future of the natural environment after the EU referendum', Therese Coffey, parliamentary under-secretary, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), said the government would still be involved in European discussions on whether the upcoming circular economy would apply in the UK, but would need to write to the committee on potential 2030 recycling targets.
In March, the government relaxed statutory plastic packaging recycling targets from 52% to 49% for 2016, with an incremental 2% increase each year until 57% target is set in 2020.
The British Plastic Federation's head of public and industrial affairs Francisco Morcillo, said: “In terms of European targets, it is still unknown whether the UK will adopt the measures included in the circular economy package due to the Brexit vote.
“However, Therese Coffey has said that the UK will take part in the discussion around it as some of the proposals, such as changing the definition of recycling, could have a major impact on the UK.
“In terms of national targets, it was announced at the last budget that the UK plastic packaging recycling targets will be extended, with the aim of reaching 57% by 2020 instead of 2017. However, Defra has not officially signed this off yet and we urge the department to do so.”
Plasgran managing director Mark Roberts said: “It's critical that government seeks the input of those who are involved in the actual recycling process regarding any policy changes.”
Nico Stillwell, managing director of Protomax Plastics, insisted that the UK must continue to lead the circular economy, “or we will just turn into the dirty man of Europe again”.
He added: “A voluntary scheme may be convenient for big business, but I very much doubt the UK public want that.”