The United Kingdom is likely to fall well short of 2035 recycling targets, according to research released by leading British-based international packagers DS Smith. It seems that Brexit-bound UK is a decade behind where it needs to be to meet the agreed targets. How serious is this potentially? Read on to find out more.
The UK, positioned at number three in terms of the global B2C e-commerce market, now enjoys about 18% of retail sales as online purchases. Significantly, this equates to close to two billion parcels (as well as the necessary packaging for them), delivered directly to the consumer’s home each year. DS Smith anticipates a 50% increase in the volume of parcels in the next decade.
Dwindling Investment in the UK Waste Management Programme
The total spend on the UK’s waste management system fell from £630 million in 2013-14 to £570 million in 2016-17. This highlights the on-going trend to invest less in recycling. This startling fact comes at a time when waste programmes around the UK are buckling under enormous increases of household rubbish.
This growing demand for packaging is bound to impact on recycling targets going forward. City and municipal planners must be cognisant of this growth. They need to plan and budget more efficiently, while introducing effective methods of processing the growing piles of household rubbish. This will be right across the UK, as B2C e-commerce literally takes to the skies in the form of drone deliveries of online purchases.
Has the Brexit Process Provided the Ideal Smokescreen?
“The UK has reversed its opposition to tough EU recycling targets,” according to an environment article featured in The Guardian. “It will now back a goal of recycling two-thirds of urban waste by 2035.” This is due to stalling of the recycling rate in the UK, which means it is set to miss the 50% target by 2020 set by the EU.
This is despite British PM, Theresa May’s pledge to act on pollution caused mainly by plastic rubbish that enters landfill sites, as well as the oceans surrounding the UK. May even described this pollution as “one of the great environmental scourges of our time”. Has the Brexit process provided the ideal smokescreen to renege on empty pledges?
Binding targets set by the EU covering recycling of household waste stand at 55% by 2025. This rises to 60% for 2030 and an ambitious 65% by 2035. The EU guideline includes even tougher recycling targets for packaging at 65% and 70% by 2025 and 2030 respectively.
Cost Benefit Spin-Offs to Meeting Recycling Targets
The UK’s own environment officials had estimated that meeting ambitious recycling targets would yield benefits totalling billions of pounds. These savings would cut waste sector costs, greenhouse gases and social consequences.
DS Smith claims that the increase in packaging materials never came up for consideration within current recycling programmes. Moreover, the current systems came about long before the arrival of e-commerce in our lives.
Brexit and the Transition of the UK to a Circular Economy
The UK’s recycling targets are directly from the EU as matters stand. This means that a ‘no deal exit’ – a distinct possibility as things stand – could have catastrophic outcomes in curtailing the waste problem.
Greener UK represents an alliance of 12 environmental groups, which include Greenpeace and WWF among others. It believes the wrong Brexit decision will leave the UK environment in a precarious position: “There is no commitment to give the proposed new watchdog power to initiate legal action, nor is there any commitment to enshrine vital environmental principles…in law.”