Waste sector welcomes government's industrial strategy green paper

Written by: Editorial staff | Published:

Further to the prime minister Theresa May’s launching the proposals for a modern industrial strategy, major organisations within the waste sector have said they will be happy to work with the government.

David Palmer-Jones, CEO of SUEZ recycling and recovery UK, said: “As the UK lays down a modern industrial strategy, the resources and waste management sector has a vital role to play in delivering the government's pledge to develop resilient UK supply chains and secure the economic benefits of a low-carbon, resource efficient economy.”

The CEO said SUEZ looked forward to seeing the resources and waste management sector “embedded in the government’s strategy for upgrading infrastructure, investing in affordable energy and clean growth, while also ensuring that the secondary raw materials our sector produces supports the UK economy along the path of innovative and sustainable growth.

“A modern industrial strategy heralds a modern strategy for the resources and waste management sector.” Palmer-Jones promised that SUEZ will work with government to “ensure waste is treated fully as a resource for both secondary raw materials and energy, so that we in the private sector can continue to invest in the long-term infrastructure required to help transition the UK to a more fully circular economy, improving resource productivity.”

The prime minister announced that the heart of the strategy green paper will comprise “an offer to businesses to strike new sector deals, driven by the interests of firms and the people they employ, to address sector-specific challenges and opportunities”.

As part of the deals government said it will be prepared to offer a range of support, including addressing regulatory barriers to innovation and growth, including “the creation of new institutions to provide leadership, support innovation or boost skills”.

The green paper is also reported to set out plans to “strengthen institutions in each part of the country to support their specific strengths – whether it’s building up local trade bodies, or creating new educational institutions, making it easier for business to access finance outside London or getting a stronger business voice into local government”.

CIWM perspective

CIWM CEO Dr Colin Church said: “CIWM agrees that now is an opportune time for the UK government to put forward a long-term vision for its industrial strategy. We welcome this green paper and look forward to working with government and our sector to shape it more fully. It is particularly encouraging to see resource productivity identified as important to the competitiveness and resilience of the UK economy.

“There are also important strands in the paper that are directly relevant to our sector, not least the focus on innovation and science,” continued CIWM’s CEO. “The UK waste and resource management sector has shown itself to be dynamic and innovative in developing new ways of deriving value from waste – both as secondary materials and energy – and has the potential to become a valuable source of feedstocks for industrial growth sectors, including the UK bioeconomy.

“We also welcome the commitment to technical education and the additional £170 million funding. Just today, a new report from the Aldersgate Group has suggested that the UK could gain around £76 billion in gross value added by 2030 through more resource-efficient business models,” said Dr Church, however he warned that: “In seeking to ‘secure the economic benefits of our move towards a low-carbon economy’, the prime minster and her colleagues must also not forget the important contribution that the waste and resource management sector makes to tackling climate change, both in terms of reducing the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions and reducing the impact associated with the extraction and consumption of virgin raw materials.

"This contribution must be reflected in any strategy seeking to deliver low-carbon growth and must be planned for as part of the infrastructure upgrade that has been promised today. In addition, given its very nature, waste and resource management happens at a local as well as a national level and is an important component in the prime minister’s drive to secure local economic development across the UK.”

Ten strategic pillars

The green paper set out 10 strategic pillars to underpin the new government approach.

These comprise:

1. Investing in science, research and innovation

2. Developing skills

3. Upgrading infrastructure

According to the PM: “We must upgrade our standards of performance on digital, energy, transport, water and flood defence infrastructure, and better align central government infrastructure investment with local growth priorities.”

4. Supporting businesses to start and grow

“We must ensure that businesses across the UK can access the finance and management skills they need to grow; and we must create the right conditions for companies to invest for the long-term,” stated Theresa May.

5. Improving procurement

6. Encouraging trade and inward investment policy

7. Delivering affordable energy and clean growth

“We need to keep costs down for businesses, and secure the economic benefits of the transition to a low-carbon economy,” said the PM.

8. Cultivating world-leading sectors

9. Driving growth across the whole country

10. Creating the right institutions to bring together sectors and places

“We will consider the best structures to support people, industries and places. In some places and sectors there may be missing institutions which we could create, or existing ones we could strengthen, be they local civic or educational institutions, trade associations or financial networks,” added Theresa May.

ESA response

ESA’s executive director, Jacob Hayler said the ESA welcomed the green paper and in particular the government’s recognition of the role which resource efficiency can play in improving productivity and growth in the UK economy.

“We look forward to working with government both on this strategy and on Defra’s 25-Year Environmental Plan, to introduce policies which promote sustainable markets for secondary raw materials and which encourage investment in much-needed infrastructure to improve the way the UK’s wastes are turned into productive resources and energy,” said Hayler.

View from R&WUK

Steve Lee, director general of R&WUK, predicted: “This much anticipated discussion paper will help to develop a new industrial strategy through which government wants to make Britain a “hive of new industries” and challenge the companies and industries of today.

“Importantly, one of its 10 ‘pillars’ is to keep costs down for businesses and to secure the economic benefits of the transition to a low carbon and resource efficient economy. Given the long term vision of the strategy through to 2050, it must anticipate how UK businesses will be able to compete successfully in a resource-constrained future. Global demand for resources will continue to grow for everything from paper and metals to energy and rare materials, and resource productivity and security will become an increasingly critical bottom line issue for UK businesses. As we move into the next industrial era – ‘Industry 4.0’ – we need to ensure that UK plc has an efficient and resilient approach to resource use," emphasised R&WUK's director general.

“This Green Paper comes at a critical time. It allows us to think about the industrial strategy in parallel with the EU Circular Economy package, Defra’s forthcoming 25-year Environment Plan and the National Infrastructure Assessment. Together they represent a unique opportunity to rethink waste as an essential business feedstock to support our move to Industry 4.0.”

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