NIC report highlights gap between government strategy and action

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The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) has called on the UK government for “more action” to create a “low-cost, low-carbon waste sector”. In its annual review of infrastructure progress, the body pointed to a disparity between the ambitions set out in the government’s strategy and recycling rates, which “have remained stable since the mid-2010s”.

The report describes increasing recycling rates as a priority action for the government in 2022, saying this can be achieved by “finalizing policy in key areas such as extended producer responsibility, deposit systems, consistency recycling and banning certain types of plastic. ‘.

The NIC notes that the performance of the waste sector has “remained stable”. Recycling rates for waste collected by local authorities are around 43%, with the UK “continuing to lag behind the international best performers in recycling”. Meanwhile, according to the NIC, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from waste have continued to rise, with rates increasing since the mid-2010s by around 15%. The report links this to an increase in waste generated, the use of energy-from-waste (EfW) plants and stagnant recycling rates.

Although recycling rates for municipal waste have plateaued over the past decade at just over 40%, recycling rates for plastic packaging have increased significantly – in 2020-2021, the municipal recycling rate and the recycling rate recycling rates for plastic packaging remained stable at around 42 and 47%, respectively. The report states that “it is unclear whether this represents a change in infrastructure or is due to disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic”.

The NIC says that although the government has set out a strategy to improve the recycling sector in England, “more progress is needed on clear targets and plans”. Examples include setting a clear target for plastic packaging recycling and strong funding for municipal and plastic recycling. The NIC adds that “the municipal waste recycling rate is far too low and has not increased in recent years. Urgent action is needed to resolve this issue.

In the foreword to the report, NIC Chairman Sir John Armitt said: “At a time of significant global volatility and concerns about the rising cost of living, we understand that it is not not easy to stick to a long-term strategy.

“But it is the only way to solve stubbornly difficult problems that will not become easier or cheaper to solve by delaying action – and the sooner we tackle them, the sooner society and our environment will reap the benefits. “

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