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How will Brexit affect the UK’s recycling?

May 15, 2019

Over the last 10 years, we’ve seen an improvement in the UK’s recycling rates. Much of this has come as a result of EU legislation, particularly the standards on environmental protection and sustainability. There are concerns that without their governance, recycling rates will diminish and our efforts to implement more sustainable processes will have been futile.
We’d like to think that this won’t be the case.

Communities throughout the UK are increasingly aware of the importance of recycling. 93% of people in the UK say recycling is “personally important to them”. Although confusing and often laborious, individuals have persisted because they feel that this is their way to make a difference to this ‘global crisis’.

Our work suggests that individuals and businesses are taking their recycling much more seriously and whether this has been as result of increased oversight from the EU or societal/governmental pressures, remains to be seen. We believe that local authorities and businesses can benefit from implementing a good waste management process. Waste can be a valuable commodity when it is managed correctly. It can bring in unexpected revenue helping to change views, seeing it as a valuable resource rather than an unwanted by product.

The UK has an EU recycling target of 50% which it has to meet by 2020. This could be set to rise to 65% by 2030, and some nations, including the UK have expressed concern that this is unachievable. The UK’s overall recycling rate stands at around 44%, but growth has slowed down due to local authority budget cuts. Scotland’s recycling rate is similar to England’s, whereas here in Wales we are already recycling 64% of our waste.

Some waste management companies have expressed concerns that leaving the EU will lead to more lenient recycling targets being set, perhaps to encourage manufacturing and productivity. Government ministers are keen to express that this will not happen and insist that they are committed to ensuring our recycling rate targets will remain the same. Others, like ourselves, don’t believe recycling rates will suffer. Although the support of the EU will no longer play a part, it is our hope that global influence will continue to ensure that our government is put under pressure to continue to build and maintain the UK’s recycling systems. Investment in green infrastructure is at an all-time high, global pressure to improve sustainability is huge and the UK will have to ensure that we do not become the exception when we do it alone.

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