November 2017

MD Warns Lords Committee About Brexit Impacts

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Our Managing Director Mike Brown gave formal evidence to the House of Lords EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee on Wednesday 22nd November on the impact of Brexit on the UK’s trade in waste.

As Eunomia’s commercial portfolio lead, and having worked as a waste management operator for 20 years, Mike was invited to join the Committee’s round table session to comment on the potential barriers and opportunities for trade following the UK’s departure from the European Union. Other representatives included those from industry trade bodies, local authorities, think tanks and the Dutch waste industry.

During the two hour discussion members of the Committee quizzed experts on key issues relating to how the trade in recyclate and residual waste (as Refuse Derived Fuel or RDF) might be affected by Brexit. Mike reflected on the potential tariffs that the UK might be subject to under World Trade Organisation rules, and flagged that non-tariff barriers such as changes to customs and border processes could cause problems with RDF shipments being held up at ports.

Discussion also centred on the impact of China’s impending import restrictions for different types of recyclate, and how, alongside Brexit, the UK’s reprocessing sector will have to adapt to the changing market. Mike explained that the EU had been at the forefront of waste policy for such a long time that the challenge for the government was to step back into this role. He called for greater policy direction from the government, particularly for England, and cited Defra’s delayed 25-year environment plan as an example of slow progress in this area.

Other opportunities discussed also included the possibility of the government introducing new taxes on plastics, a deposit refund scheme and an overhaul of the producer responsibility system.

Commenting on the session, Mike said:

“Overall the UK’s trade in waste will probably be the sector impacted by Brexit the least, as it is governed by regional and global legal systems such as the Basel Convention and the OECD Decision. However, it is encouraging to see the sub-committee investigating the potential impacts of Brexit on the industry and also looking ahead to a post-Brexit future and the opportunities this presents for the UK to go in its own policy direction.”

A recording of the evidence is available online to watch again here.

The European Union Committee of the House of Lords scrutinises the UK Government’s policies and actions in respect of the EU; and the Energy and Environment sub-committee focuses on a range of policy areas related to agriculture, fisheries, environment and energy.