Rt Hon Michael Gove MP
Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs
Nobel House
17 Smith Square

By email
                                                                                                                           16 June 2017

Dear Secretary of State,

On behalf of CIWM, the professional body for the resource and waste management sector in the UK, I congratulate you on your appointment as Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

As part of Defra’s future priorities, CIWM would like to draw your attention to the critical role that resource productivity and efficiency can play in supporting the UK’s industrial strategy and in protecting our environment for future generations.

CIWM recently identified three immediate priorities for the UK Government in this area:

  • to ensure that current environmental standards are maintained and that the UK continues to show ambition on delivering clean growth and a better environment;
  • to embed better resource productivity and efficiency as a key strand of government economic and environmental policy; and
  • to provide a clear and stable future policy direction to 2030 and beyond, taking account of developments in our neighbours in Europe.

Sound economic growth is not just about labour productivity; the availability and efficient use of resources – raw materials, water, energy, land use – will also be critical to UK industrial competitiveness and resilience and needs to be a cross cutting priority for Government. Growing competition for resources is having an impact on UK businesses, with 29% of profit warnings issued by FTSE350 companies in 2011 attributed to rising resource prices. More recent developments, such as increased price volatility in some commodity markets, reinforce and continue this concern. Recycled and recovered materials, especially when processed within the UK, can help provide a buffer to this. In addition, greater resource efficiency and better use of secondary resources derived from waste can support local economic development and, according to some estimates, lead to tens of thousands of net new jobs.

At the same time, the improper handling of materials at the end of their life is leading to growing pollution problems and health risks in the UK and globally. As an example, the average European shellfish eater now consumes up to 11,000 microparticles (and retains about 1%) of plastic each year because of the pollution of our seas and oceans. And raw material extraction and processing can require much more energy than recycling – each time a tonne of aluminium is recycled, 9 tonnes of CO2 are saved compared to virgin aluminium, yet in the UK we’ve only recently reached 70% recycling of aluminium cans and around 50% of all aluminium packaging.

The resource and waste management sector has a big role to play in addressing these issues. It is a dynamic sector that provides over 100,000 jobs and almost £7bn Gross Value Added to the economy. However, it faces the dual challenges of waste crime and an uncertain policy context.

Waste crime (such as illegal export or dumping) costs the UK economy more than £600bn a year in lost tax revenue and undermining of legitimate businesses and leads to fires, air and water pollution and ugly scenes in rural and urban areas. For example, one recent scam has seen a farmer in Lincolnshire left with a bill of around £300k in waste clean-up costs.

Along with others in the sector, CIWM has been calling for a clear articulation of the future policy direction in England, given that the current regime is both EU-derived (and so subject to the uncertainties of Brexit) and limited in time (to 2020 in most cases). The development before the election of Defra’s 25 Year Environment Plan, BEIS’ Industrial Strategy and Clean Growth Plan and the National Infrastructure Commission’s Infrastructure Assessment were widely welcomed and we encourage you and your colleagues to continue these promising developments, fully embedding resource productivity and efficiency.

We would welcome an early meeting with you and your ministerial team to discuss these matters further and we would also like to take this opportunity to invite you to the CIWM Presidential Dinner in London on 17th October, for which a formal invitation will follow.

Yours sincerely

Dr Colin Church
Chief Executive Officer
Chartered Institution of Wastes Management